PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Knowing God; Romans 1:15-32

08/16 Knowing God

Today I want to launch us on a study of God. Who God is, what he is like,

I want to spend some time together looking at what the Bible says about who God is. I believe it will be beneficial to our minds and our hearts to open God’s word and to seek him there. As we seek his face, we must learn to respond to him rightly, in worship and service and thanksgiving. It is not enough just to know what he is like, to know facts about him, to gain an understanding of his character. We must respond to him, interact with him. We must know him.

Romans 1:15 So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. 16 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. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 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. 21 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. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. 24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 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. 26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 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. 28 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. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 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.

In Romans 1, Paul tells us he is eager to preach the gospel to the believers of Rome. He is eager to preach the gospel because it is the power of God for salvation to believers. But salvation from what? What do we need to be rescued from? Verse 18 tells us – the wrath of God is revealed from heaven. That sounds pretty serious. If you were entering a courtroom because you had been charged with a serious crime which you had in fact committed, that would be cause for great concern. But if, as you were being escorted into the courtroom, the guard leaned over to you and said ‘watch out, the wrath of the judge toward you is about to be revealed’, what would you be feeling? That sounds personal! What is God so angry about? Why is he preparing to unleash the full fury of his wrath from heaven?

It is against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. Ungodliness [ἀσέβεια] is a lack of reverence or awe toward God, a lack of reverential fear. Unrighteousness [ἀδικία] is injustice, violating what is right, dealing fraudulently with others. In what way are we unjust, going against what is right? We are not left to wonder. By our unrighteousness we suppress the truth. It is wrong to hold back, to restrain, to hinder truth. But what truth? Is it truth in general? Or is it a specific kind of truth that God is enraged when we suppress it?

It is ‘the truth’. He tells us in verse 19 that the truth we are condemned for suppressing is ‘what can be known about God’. This implies that there are some things that cannot be known about God. We will never know everything about our infinite Creator. There are some things that are past finding out. We are not held responsible for what we cannot know. But this also tells us that there are things that we can know, that we must know, and that we will be held accountable for knowing. What can be known is plain. God has shown us what we can know about him, what he wants us to know about him, what he expects us to know about him. And he will hold us accountable for what we do with what he has made known. He lists his ‘invisible attributes, his eternal power and divine nature’ as things we must know about him. His divine wrath is revealed against those who suppress this knowledge of him.

He warns in verse 21 of those who know God but do not honor him as God or give him thanks. So not only is it essential that we know about him, but that we respond to him in ways appropriate to his character and nature. The consequences of not responding to him in ways appropriate to his majesty and greatness are grave. Our thinking will become futile, empty, worthless, and our hearts will become foolish and dark.

In verse 23 he says we exchange the glory of the immortal God for images of things he has made. In verse 25 he says we exchange the truth about God for a lie and worship and serve created things rather than the Creator. In verse 28, we do not see fit to acknowledge God. So the right response to knowing God as he really is must be to acknowledge him for who he is, to give him the honor and thanks that is due, to worship and serve him. In other words, we are to know God as he really is and to live in a manner consistent with what we know. Right knowledge of God must lead to right humble worship. If we truly see him for who he is, our hearts will be overwhelmed and overflow in genuine worship of him.

Practical Atheism

Stephen Charnock in the 1600’s spent a good deal of time talking about what he called ‘practical atheism’ in reference to the knowledge of God. True, all who claim to be Christians would agree that God exists and most would even be able to tell you quite a bit about what they believe he is like. But many who claim to be followers of Jesus live the better part of each week as if God did not exist. Charnock wrote:

Actions are a greater discovery of a principle than words. The testimony of works is louder and clearer than that of words; and the frame of men’s hearts must be measured rather by what they do than by what they say. There may be a mighty distance between the tongue and the heart …Who can deny an atheism in the heart, when so much is visible in the life ? [1682; Charnock, Existence & Attributes, Discourse 2]

We honor him with our lips, but our hearts are far from him (Is.29:13). We claim to believe in God, but we live as if he were not there.

Look at what this refusal to practically acknowledge God leads to. Romans 1:29-31 says:

Romans 1:29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.

The gospel is the remedy. Paul was eager to preach the gospel because it is the power of God for salvation – salvation from the lack of reverential fear toward God; salvation from our fraudulent dealing with God; salvation from suppressing the truth about him by our actions and incurring his just wrath.

Good News About God

The gospel is more than a message about forgiveness of sins. It is that indeed, but it is more. Forgiveness of sins is a means to a greater end. The gospel is not merely good news about how to escape from hell, although that is very good news. The gospel is more than a message. The gospel is a person. The gospel is about God. Paul speaks in 1 Timothy about

1 Timothy 1:11 …the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.

The gospel of the glory of the blessed God. We could rephrase that ‘the good news of the radiance of the happy God.’ The good news is about the glory of God. The good news is that God is glorious beyond our comprehension, and God is overflowing with delight. He is blessed or happy.

In Romans 3:21-26, at the very heart of the gospel is a display of the righteous character of God.

Romans 3:21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested… 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. … 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, … 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

The gospel at its core is a message about God, God’s glory, God’s righteousness, how we as sinners can be changed so that we may enjoy God without God compromising his own character.

In 2 Corinthians, Paul talks about our great enemy seeking to blind people to the gospel.

2 Corinthians 4:4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

Notice how he describes the gospel: it is light, and it is good news of the glory of Christ, and Christ is the perfect representation of God. The gospel is light about the character and nature, the glory of God. Our enemy wants to prevent us from seeing God for who he is. He goes on to describe how God himself overcomes this satanic blindness.

2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

In the gospel, God gives us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God as seen most clearly through Christ. The gospel shows us who God is.

Peter puts God at the center of the gospel.

1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,

Christ’s suffering was for a purpose. He suffered for our sins, but the purpose was ‘that he might bring us to God’. The goal of the gospel is not to have a better life now or to escape from our sins or to go to heaven when we die, but ‘that he might bring us to God’. The goal of the gospel is that everything that prevents us from enjoying God is taken out of the way so that we can have a right relationship with him.

We are told in the gospels that Jesus proclaimed ‘the gospel of the kingdom’; good news about the domain of the King. He said:

Mark 1:15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

The climax of history has arrived, the rule of God is here; turn and embrace the good news. The good news about the reign of God. The good news is that God has made a way so that we will not be destroyed when God establishes his rightful rule, but rather that we can enjoy him forever.

Jesus defined eternal life this way:

John 17:3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

Eternal life, the gift that God gives to all who trust Jesus, is a relationship. Eternal life is defined by knowing God and knowing Jesus. This is really what the whole Bible is about. The Bible is God’s revelation; it is him revealing himself to us, telling us who he is, showing us through his historical interactions with people, what he is like.

Becoming by Beholding

We desperately need to see God for who he is. We need to respond to him in ways appropriate to his majesty and glory. We need to allow God to open our eyes to see the light of the knowledge of the glory of God. We need to take time to look. Take time to perceive the glory of the Lord. Take time to enjoy him. And this will change us.

2 Corinthians 3:18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

This beholding the glory of the Lord will begin to transform us. It has been said that you become like the person you most admire. When we spend time admiring God, standing in awe of God, enjoying God, we begin to reflect his image. We begin to be who we were created to be, to enjoy and display his glory. Slightly, imperfectly, little by little, as we spend time in his presence, we are transformed. We all fall short of the glory of God. We fall short of bearing his image, the glory of his infinite perfections. But as we stand in his presence, we begin to bear his image once again.

A Prayer of Longing

May our souls resonate with Psalm 63.

Psalm 63:1 O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. 2 So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. 3 Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. 4 So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands. 5 My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, 6 when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; 7 for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. 8 My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.

Create in us a hunger for knowing you God! Give us a desperate passion to know you. Let us not be satisfied with knowing about you, but really knowing you; enjoying intimacy with you; standing in awe of you, worshiping you! Give us an insatiable appetite to behold your glory. Open our minds to grasp the truths about you that you have revealed to us, and open our hearts to love what we see. May you be to us the sweetest of pleasures. Let us taste and see that you are indeed good. Give us an acute awareness of your nearness, your presence. Let us live every moment of every day with a consciousness of you, and an eager desire in everything to please you.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

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August 17, 2015 - Posted by | Knowing God, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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