by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 1 Paragraph # 4 Study # 3 July 20, 2004 Lincolnton, N.C.
(043)Thesis:God's revelation of wrath rests upon man's rebellion against his sure knowledge of God.
Introduction:Last week we said that the reason for the revelation of God's wrath was man's deliberate attempts to prevent the Truth from running in a free course to have its beneficial impact upon all who have the capacity to learn. Man's animosity toward God bleeds out into animosity toward his fellow man and the two combine to undercut the beneficial impact of the Truth. This antagonizes God and He has responded by visiting retribution upon man day after day, night after night, and year after year. This is Paul's opening statement as he attempts to build a case for man's understanding of just how desperately he needs to be saved by the Gospel's revelation of the righteousness of God, which is by faith. No man ever comes to salvation without first sensing a need to escape the consequences of his own deeds. Paul, in these verses, is setting about to establish the need.
This evening we are going to look at one of the first things man falls back on when confronted with the inescapable reality of his own failure: his claim "I didn't know". Man is the inveterate seeker of a way to minimize the retribution due him. There is a hot debate going on right now as to whether people ought to be executed for capital crimes if they committed them before they were 18 years old. What does "being 18 years old" have to do with anything? Does turning 18 suddenly bring sense into the heads of human beings? The argument fundamentally rests upon one assumption: if men "knew" what they were about to bring upon themselves by their actions, they would not "do" what they were contemplating. It is this target toward which Paul takes aim in Romans 1:19-20. His claim is that "ignorance" is not the problem.
I. Paul Has Set Forth the Claim that God Regularly Responds to Man's Evil With Retribution.
A. His claim is that a great deal of the negative experience of man is rooted in divine retribution for deeds accomplished...man acts unjustly, and God reacts with justice.
B. His claim is that God has determined to respond in this manner because of man's intentional obstruction of Truth.
II. Paul Now Sets Forth the Claim that the Problem is Not Man's Ignorance.
A. God has made certain facts regarding man's relationship to God inescapable.
1. There exists a "known" thing about "the God".
a. This "known" thing consists of two facts.
1) God [the Exerciser of Power] is as the Unproduced Power Producer.
a) Power is such a fundamental issue of experience that no one disputes its reality.
b) Power is such a fundamental issue of reality that it takes on a fundamental characteristic of Absolute Permanence: Power is, and has been, forever.
2) God, as the Unproduced Power Producer, is personal, not impersonal.
a) Paul used this word only here in all of his writings, and no other New Testament writer used it at all.
b) In the world of Paul, a form of this word was used to refer to an "uncle", a form was used to refer to Caesar, a form was used to refer to the "gods" as more than mere men, and the sense of the word referred to someone "outside" of man's immediate context who controlled "social order".
c) The conclusion is that Paul was saying that all men everywhere know that the power that is everlasting is "socially constructive"--which means that it takes man's relations with his fellow intelligent beings into consideration and lays down laws to reward/penalize man's actions toward those fellow intelligent beings...a fact that cannot but be personal.
i. Impersonality cannot "take into consideration", nor "lay down laws".
ii. "Uncle", "Caesar", the "gods": all were extensions of man's own personhood.
b.This "known" thing is inescapable.
1) Paul says that the "known" thing surrounds man...it is "in his midst".
2) Paul says that God "made it manifest" to man.
a) Being "manifest" means that it is easily discerned and, thus, "known".
b) Being "manifested" by the undisputable Power behind the universe makes it inescapable.
2. The known thing(s) is rooted in man's rationality.
a. The ultimate realities are "invisible" (neither Power, nor Personhood are visible commodities).
b. But there is a definitive link between what is "invisible", yet Real, and man's ability to "see" it.
1) The definitive link is man's "rationality": man is able to reason (i.e. link truths to each other and to Truth).
2) "Reason" makes up for what the "eyes" cannot do.
B. That God has made the invisible so visible that man cannot escape it clearly means that man's "problem" is not "ignorance".
1. Man cannot plead "ignorance"; neither of "power", nor of its "socially constructive" nature.
2. Man's socially destructive behavior has to be rooted in something other than ignorance.
III. Thus, God's Intentional Retribution Has a Two-fold Purpose.
A. It is designed to curb the destruction introduced by man.
B. It is designed to push man toward terror: man only seeks "salvation" if he sees a need for it.