16For 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. 17For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith,e as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”f
This is excellent. I agree and support the sentiment fully. I believe in God, by faith, in faith, for faith, unto faith, faith–first and last. It is the power of God. The main point is that it is good news. God is saving us, and Jesus is how He stepped in to ensure we get it. He was proving to us, not demanding of us.
18For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world,g in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21For 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.22Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
Here, we first have to ask, “Was God, through Paul, making a universal statement? Or, was Paul simply making an observation of the state of affairs in his day?” We stretch the argument too far if we assert more than the obvious, that Paul was delineating the state of affairs as he knew it in his time and regarding his knowledge of history. For one to universalize and apply to all men through all of history, past, present, and future requires more than is present in the scripture. One can assert the universal as an article of faith, but to claim such based solely on scripture is unwarranted, and would require an improper adding to the scripture.
There are grounds for generalization in the generic, but how far can we stretch it? It is important to note that our clear perceptions of creation are unimaginably different. Paul simply did not understand nature the way we do. He could not.
There has been since Paul, a great deal of truth seeking, both successful and unsuccessful, both within the church and without. There is a great deal of truth known and established outside the purview of religion. I do not allow that Christians have a monopoly on truth; not in matters of faith, not in matters of science, not in matters of fact. The ability to pursue and recognize truth doesn’t depend on some minimum level of correctness in one’s morals and beliefs. Ethics matter, and when ethics run afoul, reality tends to correct the situation. My point is that the abandonment of truth as Paul described is no longer what it was in First Century Rome.
I’m mainly just stating the obvious. I’m not here developing the notion.
24Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
This statement is more about the heart-condition of humanity, and it seems sufficiently generic to suppose at least a general universality. We all know our tendency is toward baseness. We have to work, and we need some help, to be able to rise to nobility. Mostly, it says we are selfish by nature, and God leaves us to our self-centeredness if we insist on it.
26For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27and 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.
Again, I assert that we must accept that Paul was describing his observations and not speaking for God as an absolute for all time and eternity.
Note that Paul steps away from that subject and changes tone. Here he gets more general and more inclusive.
28And 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. 29They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32Though 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.
Before I can condemn anyone for things related to verses 26 and 27, I must show that I am perfect with regard to the many factors indicated in verses 29 through 31.
Does anyone want to address all manner of unrighteousness or evil?
What about envy? Strife? Deceit? Gossip or slander?
Haters of God? Does that apply only to certain stripes of atheists or some variety of those who fight for “freedom from religion”? We must admit that there is no group that can claim no intrusion of any who could fit a reasonable description of God-haters. The examples are hopefully rare, but there can be found religious leaders who demonstrated a systematic contempt for God and submission to God and His law.
No doubt all of us have failed in all these regards. It is reasonable to assert that some of us, perhaps many of us, do mature and overcome some or several of these failings, but take those last four.
http://biblehub.com/interlinear/romans/1-31.htm ἀσυνέτους, ἀσυνθέτους, ἀστόργους, ἀνελεήμονας
Definition: unintelligent, without wisdom, unwise, undiscerning (implying probably moral defect). Generally unwilling to use good reason.
Definition: not covenanting, untrue to an agreement, treacherous. Untrustworthy. Faithless.
Definition: unloving, devoid of affection.
Definition: unpitying, unmerciful, without compassion, cruel.
Does anyone think they meet such a standard? Of course not.
I remember Jesus admonition, “Let the one without sin cast the first stone.”
There is no rock in my hand.