Romans - Lesson 7

Romans 1:18-28

In Romans 1:18-28, Paul addresses the accountability of all humanity before God, emphasizing the universal accessibility of both special and natural revelation. The passage describes how humanity, despite possessing knowledge of God's existence and basic moral principles through creation, suppresses truth and engages in idolatry and sinful behaviors. Paul underscores the pattern of humanity exchanging the truth of God for falsehoods and sinful desires, leading to God's response of giving them over to their choices. 

Lesson 7
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Romans 1:18-28

II. The Heart of the Gospel: Justification by Faith (1:18–4:25)

A. The Universal Reign of Sin (1:18–3:20)

1. All Persons Are Accountable to God for Sin (1:18-32)

2. Jews Are Accountable to God for Sin (2:1–3:8)

a. The Jews and the Judgment of God (2:1-16)

b. The Limitations of the Covenant (2:17-29)

c. God's Faithfulness and the Judgment of Jews (3:1-8)

3. The Guilt of All Humanity (3:9-20)

B. Justification by Faith (3:21–4:25)

1. Justification and the Righteousness of God (3:21-26)

2. "By Faith Alone" (3:27–4:25)

a. "By Faith Alone": Initial Statement (3:27-31)

b. "By Faith Alone": Elaboration with Respect to Abraham (4:1-25)

  • This lesson offers a deep dive into Paul's Letter to the Romans, revealing its pastoral aims, Paul's intentions to visit Spain, Jerusalem, and Rome, and its relevance to early Christian dynamics and theological inquiries about the Law in Christ's time.
  • This lesson offers a fresh view of Paul's theology, focusing on Romans. It emphasizes the first-century context, highlighting Gentile inclusion and unity in Christ, challenging traditional views. Gain insights into Paul's message and its relevance today.
  • Explore the book of Romans for modern faith conflicts: balance tradition with contemporary practices, learn from history, and grasp Paul's ministry and Gospel's complexities.
  • Follow along with Dr. Moo as he begins a thorough review of Romans 1:2-5. You will learn how Paul emphasizes Jesus' earthly life, resurrection, and his appointment as the Son of God in power. This lesson examines the interconnectedness of faith and obedience, underscoring that while faith initiates salvation, genuine faith inherently entails obedience to Christ as Lord, maintaining a balanced Christian life.
  • By delving into Romans 1:16-17, you'll understand the Gospel extends beyond individual salvation, encompassing God's reign over creation and His establishment of justice. The Gospel challenges worldly powers, offering hope and transformation to all who embrace it.
  • Listen along as the class discusses questions and answers revolving around Romans 1:16-17.
  • In Romans 1:18-28, you learn that all people are held accountable by God, having knowledge of Him through natural revelation but some turn away. This passage highlights the manifestation of God's wrath against sin, the exchange of truth for falsehoods, and the absence of excuses for humanity's actions, ultimately emphasizing God's fair judgment.
  • Listen in as the class and Dr. Moo discuss aspects of Romans 1:18-28.
  • The lesson discusses Romans 2:1-11, it highlights the use of the diatribe device and the transition from focusing on Gentiles to Jews. It underscores the Jewish belief in their special status and their potential misunderstanding of God's judgment. The lesson reviews the focus of the text on key themes such as judgment, righteousness, and the relationship between faith and good deeds.
  • In this lesson, you'll review the significance of the Law, notably the Law of Moses, in God's judgment. Paul stresses that mere knowledge of the Law isn't sufficient for righteousness; obedience is key. The primary message is that salvation ultimately relies on God's grace and the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as human efforts and consciences alone cannot secure salvation. This lesson highlights the importance of understanding these concepts in interactions with people of different religious beliefs.
  • The key takeaway in this lesson is that while being a Jew comes with a great heritage, it doesn't guarantee salvation. Obedience to God's law is crucial, and reliance on religious heritage or rituals won't save you. The lesson emphasizes the universal human condition of being under the power of sin, and people cannot be declared righteous in God’s sight by observing the Law or by the works of the Law. Only through faith in Christ are we made righteous.
  • This lesson explores the New Perspective on Paul, emphasizing that the Law was for Jewish covenant status, not just salvation. It promotes a holistic faith view, balancing vertical and horizontal aspects, Spirit-led obedience, and 1st-century Judaism diversity, enriching Pauline teachings in the church.
  • In exploring Romans 3:21-26, you'll gain insights into the relationship between righteousness, faith, and salvation. Paul highlights God's righteousness, which is accessible to all through faith in Jesus Christ. By weaving together themes of righteousness, faith, and inclusivity, Paul challenges conventional Jewish and Gentile perspectives, emphasizing the continuity of God's salvation plan while underscoring the centrality of faith in Christ for all believers.
  • In this lesson, you will gain insights into the potential challenge in translating Romans 3:23-24, particularly the term "all" and its connection to the debate on universalism in evangelicalism. Dr. Moo stresses the importance of coherence in biblical interpretation and explores the themes of God's righteousness, faith, and grace in justification. The lesson reviews the cultural background of redemption, drawing parallels with the Greco-Roman slave market and emphasizing the need to understand both the problem of sin and the Gospel solution.
  • Embarking on this lesson, you'll gain insight into the historical development and contemporary challenges surrounding the doctrine of justification. Through exploring classic Reformation principles and contemporary reassessments, you'll understand the tensions between Protestant and Roman Catholic perspectives, particularly regarding the infusion of righteousness and the role of grace.
  • The lesson explores the intricate connection between faith and works, justification, and sanctification in contemporary theological discourse. It delineates divergent views on justification, with scholars like Piper advocating for the preservation of biblical distinctions amidst modern theological trends. The lesson examines key questions regarding the meaning, basis, time, and means of justification.
  • Students in Dr. Moo's class ask multiple questions about justification.
  • By studying Romans 3:27-4:25, you gain insight into Paul's theology, where faith, exemplified by Abraham's righteousness, transcends works and ethnicity, emphasizing the universal scope of salvation through Christ.
  • Hear the questions the students ask regarding Romans 3:27–4:25. And discover Dr. Moo's answers to the questions posed.
  • In Romans 5 – 8, you gain insights into profound theological concepts like justification, identity in Christ, and the tension between present reality and future hope, guiding you to embrace your changed identity and hope for future transformation amidst life's trials.
  • Students as deep questions about Romans 5-8. Hear what Dr. Moo presents as answers to their questions.
  • Through Romans 5:1-11, you'll review the contrast between the Old and New Realms, understanding the essence of living in grace, finding hope amid suffering, and experiencing the assurance of eternal security rooted in Christ's sacrifice and God's love poured into believers' hearts by the Holy Spirit.
  • In Romans 5:12-21, Paul contrasts Adam's sin with Christ's redemptive grace, emphasizing humanity's hope and victory over death through union with Christ, while various interpretations of original sin underscore the universal need for redemption and Christ's pivotal role in restoring humanity to God.
  • Listen to the thorough questions the students ask regarding Romans 5:12-21.
  • The students ask excellent questions of Dr. Moo in this insightful discussion on Romans 6:1-14.
  • Through this lesson, you will gain a deeper understanding of the theological implications of Christ's death and resurrection as explained in Romans 6. You will explore different interpretations of Paul's language regarding the old self and the new self, considering the implications for the Christian life. Ultimately, you will be challenged to recognize your identity in Christ and to actively live according to that identity, rejecting the slavery of sin and embracing servitude to God.
  • Hear the questions the students ask of Dr. Moo regarding Romans 6:1-23.
  • In diving into Romans 7, you'll explore the Law's role in Christian life. Paul's discourse clarifies the distinction between law and gospel, emphasizing the Torah's significance in understanding divine commandments.
  • Class discussion on Romans 7:1-6
  • In Romans 7:7-12, Paul explores the Law's role in intensifying sin and contrasts it with Christ's liberation. His narrative prompts reflection on individual experience and collective identity, enriching understanding of Christian faith.
  • The class discusses the previous lesson on Romans 7:7-12.
  • This lesson covers interpretations of Romans 7:13-25; whether Paul's description is of pre- or post-conversion struggle with the Law.
  • In Romans 8:1-22, discover the Spirit's transformative power over sin, leading to a life free from condemnation, intimacy with God, and anticipation of future glory amid present sufferings.
  • Explore the theological insights on environmental stewardship, emphasizing Christian responsibility in light of Romans 8:19-22.
  • Gain insights into Romans 8:23-27, understanding destined glory despite present suffering. The Spirit intercedes, bridging current and promised futures, offering assurance amid weakness.
  • Romans 8:28 offers profound insights into the nature of God's providence and the believer's journey of faith. Beyond its surface meaning, the verse challenges misconceptions about 'good' and underscores the transformative power of God's grace. It invites believers to trust in God's unfailing love amidst life's trials, anchoring their hope in the assurance of His sovereign care and redemptive purposes.
  • Romans 9:1-5 highlights Paul's profound concern for Israel's salvation and the theological complexities surrounding God's promises. Reviewing salvation history, you'll learn that God's offer of salvation for both Jew and Gentile, fits within the Old Testament narrative.
  • Paul discusses Israel's role in God's plan, emphasizing grace over race. He illustrates divine choices and sovereignty, sparking debates on salvation.
  • Discover diverse views on election, Israel's struggle with faith, and the significance of overcoming theological narrowness in Romans 9:30-10:21. Gain insights into law versus faith in attaining righteousness and the importance of engaging deeply with Scripture for a comprehensive understanding.
  • Gain insights into faith versus works, Christ as the culmination of the Law, and the inclusivity of righteousness through Him. Embrace unity in Christ, transcending cultural divisions, and embodying love and holiness.
  • Gain insight into contrasting righteousness by law vs. faith in Romans 10:5-13. Accessibility of salvation through Christ bridges Old and New Testament teachings, emphasizing unity and continuity.
  • Gain insights into Romans 10:14-21, emphasizing faith, preaching, and Israel's reception of the message. Dr. Moo highlights Paul's use of Old Testament quotes and God's ongoing relationship with Israel, revealing the significance of faith and salvation.
  • Gain insight into Romans 11:11-15. Paul discusses Jewish rejection, Gentile salvation, and Jewish inclusion, aiming to provoke Jewish envy. The phrase "life from the dead" hints at spiritual renewal or future resurrection.
  • Gain insights into the Olive Tree analogy in Romans 11:16-24. Understand humility, faithfulness, and the purpose of warning passages in Scripture.
  • Discover the mystery of Israel's salvation in Romans 11:25-32. Paul reveals unity of Jews and Gentiles, challenging arrogance and emphasizing God's inclusive love.
  • Gain deeper understanding of Christian-Jewish ties, navigate theological challenges, address Israel-Palestine tensions, and embrace God's inclusive grace.
  • Gain deep insights into Romans 12:1-2: True worship extends beyond rituals, urging sacrificial living and transformation in response to God's mercy.
  • In Romans 12:3-8, Paul stresses humility, unity, and diverse gifts within the body of Christ, urging faithful stewardship for the edification of the body of Christ.
  • Gain insights into love's complexity in Romans 12:9-21. Paul urges sincere affection, alludes to Jesus' teachings, and prompts contemplation on love and judgment.
  • Gain insights into balancing submission to authorities with obedience to God. Understand the context of Paul's exhortation to Roman Christians and the complexities of submission, emphasizing humility, unity, and love in the Christian life within God's sovereignty.
  • In Romans 14:1-15:13, you learn about the division in the Roman Christian community, the concept of adiaphora, the balance between liberty and love, and Paul's emphasis on mutual acceptance and avoiding spiritual harm through personal conviction and respect for others' practices.
  • In Romans 15:14-16:27, you explore Paul's extended conclusion, his ministry to the Gentiles, his request for prayers regarding his journey to Jerusalem, the roles of Phoebe and Junias in ministry, and the diversity of the early Christian community.

Dr. Douglas Moo, from Wheaton College Graduate School, offers an exegetical examination of the book of Romans. This course was recorded during a D.Min. seminar at the Carolina Graduate School of Divinity in May 2012.

Please note that the audio mp3 file numbers on downloaded files are two greater than each lecture number beginning with number 15.

Dr. Douglas Moo 
Romans 1:18-28  
Lesson Transcript


Romans 1:18-28 NIV

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For 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 people are without excuse. For 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. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error. Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done.

We need to push on, I’m afraid.  Some of these ideas we will come back to if you still have some questions about them.

I want to note how important the idea of the Gospel is to Paul in this little chart that you have here, and in the PowerPoint also, to illustrate the point that it is really a key idea, particularly in the noun form, as you can see. (referring to PowerPoint slide, The “Good News” in the NT.)

A. All People are Accountable to God

Let’s move now to the first part of Paul’s argument And of course, it is well known that Paul he delays the discussion of the righteousness of God until chapter 3 verse 21 and following. After introducing the idea here in 1:17, Paul, as it were, puts it on the back burner for a bit and develops another argument before he talks about this righteous of God. To give us a sense of the progression, in this part of the letter in which Paul sort of narrows his focus, moving from all humanity until he focuses on Jews in particular.

Rhetorically, this is very effective; Paul begins by talking about “all people” in 1:18-19, then “people apart from special revelation.” This is a complicated phrase here, but if you have read the commentary, you know that I am concerned to be faithful to how Paul is putting the matter. We often think that Paul is thinking about Gentiles here and in a sense that is true, but as I argue in the commentary, Jews are included here as well. This is because Jews have natural revelation as well as the Gentiles. That is why Paul doesn’t talk about Jew and Gentile yet. So, he is talking about people in general, but focusing on their accountability to God by virtue of God’s creation and natural revelation.

Then in the beginning of chapter 2, he begins to narrow his focus but still is not directly talking about Jews but now he is getting closer as we will see. Until finally y beginning in 2:17 this becomes his clear focus.

Obviously, this is one of the most important passages in the Bible on the matter of sin and human accountability. We will see again and again in Romans what Paul says opens up a Pandora’s Box of issues. Sometimes we just need to let the box fly open and let the devils fly out; sometimes we’re going to need to try to get the lid shut because we can’t go on forever talking about each of these issues. So, we’re going to do a little bit of both here as we move through these texts.  Let’s see how the evidence moves along.

B. The Wrath of God is being Revealed

This is in the present tense and so somehow there is a current manifestation of God’s wrath against sin. We will see how that works out in a moment. Let me just give an overview of the passage first. Paul talks about this wrath of God being manifest. It is manifest because people are suppressing the truth, verse 18. Now, people cannot suppress truth unless they have access to truth. So that is why Paul next goes on to say, that people do have access to it. We’ll talk about that in a moment.

But then he concludes the passage by talking in a structural way where you have this three-fold statement about how human beings made an exchange to which God responded by giving them over. Verse 23 says that people exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images and therefore, verse 24, God gave them over to sexual impurity. Again verse 25, people exchanged the truth of God for a lie and because of this -verse 26- God gave them over to shameful lusts. Again, the third time, people exchanged natural relationships for unnatural ones, therefore, verse 28, God gave them over.

In each case, what we have here is a pattern in which Paul is looking at the history of humanity and saying that history is characterized by humanity exchanging God for something else. They made the choice to follow their own gods, their own desires, and going their own way, sexually and otherwise, making an exchange to which God responds by handing them over to the decisions they have made. In a sense, God says alright, you want to go that way, then go that way. I am going to let you go that way, and He gives them over into what human beings themselves have chosen.

C. There is Special and Natural Revelation

I want to go back to verses 1:19-22, these verses are some of the most important passages in Scripture about what we call "natural revelation.”

God gives us “special revelation.”  He sends prophets who utter the Word of God. He sends apostles to write Scripture, so we now, as His people, have in our hands “special revelation,”:  the Word of God.

In addition to that, there is also “natural revelation,” namely the knowledge of God available universally in the creation He has made. This is what Paul is talking about in these verses.

Three points stand out here: Paul implies that this knowledge is universal. He talks about people in verse 18 who are characterized by ungodliness and wickedness. He talks about “they” and “them” in a very general way here. All human beings have access to, and some exposure to, God’s natural revelation.

The second point, that knowledge is limited as seen in verse 20. Paul says: “since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities – His eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen.” Paul is not talking about the way of salvation, and he is not talking about the Gospel. He is talking in a limited way about certain basic attributes of God. Then he comes back to a similar idea in verse 32 where he says that people in general know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death. So, there is both knowledge of God and some sense of right and wrong that God has put into every human being.

Third, Paul is very clear in the context that this knowledge of God by itself is condemning knowledge. Look at how he concludes verse 20, he says: “since the creation of the God’s invisible qualities have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made so that people are without excuse.”  The knowledge that God gives to all humans in a world He has made is not knowledge that enables them to be saved; it is knowledge from which they consistently turn and therefore are accountable for and condemned by.

D. No One is Without Excuse

So, bottom line in terms of natural revelation, we often hear the question asked when we’re talking about Christianity, particularly in its worldwide extension: how about those who have never heard the Gospel? Paul hasn’t given us a final answer to that issue, an initial answer he provides here is that in fact, all people have heard. That is one of the points Paul is making here: all people have heard. They have not heard the Gospel, that is not what Paul is saying. All people have been given some understanding of the reality of a creator God, and some sense of right and wrong.

People universally, turned from that knowledge and are therefore rightly condemned. God doesn’t condemn people for something they had no knowledge of. God condemns people because they turned from the evidence of His reality which they did have access to. I am not saying that this answers all the questions that arise when we ask what about people who have never heard. But from a biblical standpoint, we have to back that question up and emphasize the point Paul is making here that people in a sense have heard.

One of the questions that also arises when we read this part of Romans is why do people do this? Why do they turn from God? Why do they make this exchange? There we’re going to have to wait until Romans 5 and the discussion about Adam comes along to explain why that might be the case. 

I put it this way then, to summarize:

  • every person is being judged by God’s wrath;  
  • every person knows about God;
  • every person turns away from God;  
  • every person is without excuse;
  • God is fair to judge that person with His wrath.