The Wages of Sin and the Mystery of Humbling Grace
The United States and much of Western Civilization generally have been experiencing a perfect storm of economic, social, and political calamities and misery. Is it only a coincidence that this expanding misery and civilizational destruction followed the accumulating confusion of sharp declines in faith, spiritual discernment, respect for truth, and private and public standards of morality? Indeed. it brings to mind the words of Isaiah 5:20: [All verses ESV except as noted.]
“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!”
In London on May 10, 1983, on the occasion of the awarding the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion, the recipient, Russian Orthodox author, Christian social commentor and scholar, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, began by reminiscing to a distinguished audience.
“More than half a century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of older people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia:”
“Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.”
The Soviet Union fell in 1991, and Communist government was discarded. According to a 2017 Pew Research report, 72% of Russians now identify as Christians.
According to a September 2022 Pew Research report, as recently as the early 1990s, about 90% of U.S. adults identified as Christians. In 2007 the share was at 78%. Today, that number is down to 64%. Since 2007, the share of adults who identify as having no religion has grown from 16% to 29%.
I will not try to name all the perversions of nature, justice, medicine, science, fairness, and truth that increasingly corrupt our people, our schools, elections, politics, and even foreign policy. Lies and dishonesty increasingly prevail throughout our culture. Violence, corruption, and suppression of speech, religion, and traditional family and moral values are rampant and becoming onerous. Normalization of mental disorders has become absurd fashion. Children are maimed to conform to insane ideology. Children and teachers in Christian schools are gunned down by mentally ill adherents, themselves victims, of this ideology, and much of the media sides with the perverted ideology. Unchecked mobs and riots burn property, disrupt normal commerce, and ruin businesses. Demonizing and smearing dominate politics, academia, and even American diplomacy. Cancel-culture, a manifestation of hate-culture, ruins lives and advances evil. Our work ethic and sense of fairness has been undermined by sociological nonsense. Should we be surprised by looming bank failures, punishing inflation, energy shortages, threats to the stability of American currency, and soaring rates of drug use, crime and violence? Moreover, perverted social justice theories are weakening our armed services, while misguided foreign policy strategies are weakening our moral credibility and pushing us toward World War III.
Perhaps Romans1can give us some insight into our danger and our possible escape.
The late R. C. Sproul, General Editor of The Reformation Study Bible, estimated the Apostle Paul wrote the 16-chapter letter to the Church at Rome in about AD 56. We now generally refer to it as the New Testament gospel book of Romans. According to Sproul, ”All the Reformers saw Romans as the God-given key to understanding all Scripture.”
Sproul also points out that Romans brings together all the Bible’s greatest themes of theology and Christian Life, including the work of Christ, grace, salvation, understanding the meaning of the Old Testament, the Church, the principles of godliness, and morality, and much more. Sproul rightly concludes:
“The study of Romans is vitally necessary for the spiritual health and insight of the Christian.”
In verse 1:1, Paul introduces himself as a servant (Greek=doulos) of Christ Jesus and an Apostle set aside for the gospel. There are some valuable lessons in this introduction, but for the sake of brevity, we must begin with verse 16.
The Righteous Shall Live by Faith
Romans 1: 16-17 NIV
“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. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed by faith from first to last, just as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.”
God's Wrath on Unrighteousness
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 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. 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. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.”
“Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 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.”
“ For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 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.”
“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. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.”
Just before his death in a Roman prison late in the reign of Nero (died AD 68), Paul reminded Timothy, the young Bishop of the Church at Ephesus that:
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”--2 Timothy 3:16
We have seen in Romans 1 the horror by which individuals and nations can be dragged into a whirlpool of disaster, misery, and destruction. But that introduces us to amazing undeserved grace for sinners, even sinners like those described in Romans 1.
Twelve Amazing Grace Verses in Romans for Repentant Sinners through Faith in Christ
Romans 3:9-11, “What shall we conclude then? Are we any better? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. As it is written: ‘There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.’”
Romans 3:21, “But now a righteousness from God apart from the law, has been made known, to which the Law and Prophets testify.”
Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Romans 6;23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Romans 8:9, “You however, are controlled not by the sinful nature, but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.”
Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Romans 8: 37-39, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Romans 10: 9-10, “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.”
Romans 12:1,“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, this is your spiritual act of worship.”
Romans 12:19, “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.”
Romans 16:17, “I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them.”
The magnificent words of Isaiah 40; 21-31 teach that God is sovereign over the destiny of nations as well as well as princes and the humblest of mankind and every creature. As Jerry Bridges has said, “Nothing is too large or small to escape God’s governing hand. The spider building its web in the corner and Napoleon marching his army across Europe are both under God’s control.” Yet scores of Scripture verses teach us that we can lift our prayers to Him.
Psalm 34:4, “ I sought the Lord and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.”
“The world little dreams the things that are wrought by prayer.”—Alfred, Lord Tennyson.
“When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”—2 Chronicles 7:13-14