This follows on from yesterday.
For the believer, Romans is quite important. This is one of three letters of high theology in the NT — the other is Hebrews and I John. Most of the other letters we have are pastoral — they were written for a purpose. Some are quite short. But here we get an essay, a pamphlet, a manifesto.
Paul is making the point that we are all damned. We are all depraved. When we condemn the murderer, the thief, the transgressor (being gay is now seen as OK by society, so now those who seek perversion go much further).
Romans 1:(26-27) 28-2:11
1:26For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, 27and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error.
28And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind and to things that should not be done. 29They were filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, they are gossips, 30slanderers, God-haters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious toward parents, 31foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32They know God’s decree, that those who practice such things deserve to die — yet they not only do them but even applaud others who practice them.
2:1Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things. 2You say, “We know that God’s judgment on those who do such things is in accordance with truth.” 3Do you imagine, whoever you are, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgment of God? 4Or do you despise the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not realize that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. 6For he will repay according to each one’s deeds: 7to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8while for those who are self-seeking and who obey not the truth but wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. 9There will be anguish and distress for everyone who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11For God shows no partiality.
Now, we should condemn evil. It is needed: we have to put a fence around unrighteous and malevolent behaviour to make a space for a civilization to flourish. If everyone steals, no one will lend. If violence is common, everyone will arm, and no one will travel lightly. We need to have a certain degree of safety and security around our personal space, our property, and our contracts to allow a society and a market to flourish.
So being a judge is good. But the true judge is impartial. He does not care why you did it, but notes you did evil… and are thus unworthy.
We have all chosen wickedness, and chosen it habitually. Our culture celebrates wickedness — consider country music or our movies.
In reformed terms, this is called total depravity. From the Larger Westminster Catechism.
Question 24: What is sin?
Answer: Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, any law of God, given as a rule to the reasonable creature.
Question 25: Wherein consists the sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell?
Answer: The sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell, consists in the guilt of Adam’s first sin, the want of that righteousness wherein he was created, and the corruption of his nature, whereby he is utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite unto all that is spiritually good, and wholly inclined to all evil, and that continually; which is commonly called original sin, and from which do proceed all actual transgressions.
Question 26: How is original sin conveyed from our first parents unto their posterity?
Answer: Original sin is conveyed from our first parents unto their posterity by natural generation, so as all that proceed from them in that way are conceived and born in sin.
Question 27: What misery did the fall bring upon mankind?
Answer: The fall brought upon mankind the loss of communion with God, his displeasure and curse; so as we are by nature children of wrath, bond slaves to Satan, and justly liable to all punishments in this world, and that which is to come.
Question 28: What are the punishments of sin in this world?
Answer: The punishments of sin in this world are either inward, as blindness of mind, a reprobate sense, strong delusions, hardness of heart, horror of conscience, and vile affections; or outward, as the curse of God upon the creatures for our sakes, and all other evils that befall us in our bodies,names, estates, relations, and employments; together with death itself.
Question 29: What are the punishments of sin in the world to come?
Answer: The punishments of sin in the world to come, are everlasting separation from the comfortable presence of God, and most grievous torments in soul and body, without intermission, in hell fire forever.
Question 30: Does God leave all mankind to perish in the estate of sin and misery ?
Answer: God does not leave all men to perish in the estate of sin and misery,into which they fell by the breach of the first covenant, commonly called the covenant of works; but of his mere love and mercy delivers his elect out of it, and brings them into an estate of salvation by the second covenant,commonly called the covenant of grace.
We are all rightfully condemned. We need to, as a church, teach this. We need to start with the consideration that all — our feminist and socialist enemies, the progressives, the straight, the gay… look at some of the acts that happen and recoil with horror. They are evil. They are vile.
And working from that — if we look internally, we note that we are all human and this evilness is not alien to us (1)
And from that we should move from the Law — which is good, necessary and wise. The law keeps civilization — to grace, where we can find forgiveness, not merely justice.
Because in this world and the next, justice is painful and coercive.
1. Yes, that is the humanist quote: Humanus sum, nihil humanum a me alienum puto.