I. Romans 1:18-3:20. The Universality of Sin and Condemnation.
St. Paul has enunciated his great thesis. There has arrived into the world a new and divine force making for man's fullest salvation: the disclosure of a real fellowship in the moral being of God, which is open to all men, Jew and Gentile equally, on the simple terms of taking God at His word. This word of good tidings St. Paul is to expand and justify in his epistle; but first he must pause and explain its antecedents. Why was such a disclosure needed at this moment of the world's history? Why has St. Paul spoken of 'salvation,' or why does he elsewhere speak of 'redemption,' instead of expressing such ideas as are most popular among ourselves to-day — development or progress? It is because, to St. Paul's mind, man as he is is held in a bondage which he ought to find intolerable, and the first step to freedom lies in the recognition of this. Again, why does St. Paul lay such emphasis on faith, mere faith, only faith — why is he to insist so zealously on the exclusion of any merit or independent power on man's part? It is not only because faith, the faculty of mere reception and correspondence, represents the normal and rational relation of man to God, his Creator, Sustainer, Father. It is also, and with special emphasis, because there has been a great revolt, a great assertion of false independence on man's part; and what is needed first of all is the submission of the rebel, or much rather the return of the prodigal son, simply to throw himself on the mercy of his Father and acknowledge his utter dependence upon Him for the forgiveness of his disloyalty and his outrages, as well as for the fellowship which he seeks in the divine life. The fuller statement therefore of St. Paul's gospel must be postponed to the uncloaking of what man is without it. The note of severity must be struck before the message of joy. We must be brought to acknowledge ourselves to be not men only, but corrupt men — men under the divine wrath — doomed men powerless to deliver ourselves, and ready therefore to welcome in simple gratitude the large offer of God's liberal and almost unconditional love.
It is to produce this acknowledgement that St. Paul now addresses himself. This argument of the first part of the epistle is a very simple one. It elucidates two plain propositions: —
1. that the wrath of God is, and is necessarily according to eternal and unalterable principles of moral government, and in the case of every man without any possibility of exception, upon sin.
2. that all men, Jews and Gentiles, are held in sin, and therefore lie under the divine wrath.
Thus St. Paul immediately follows up his initial statement of the revelation of a divine righteousness with the assertion of another 'revelation' made plain to the consciences of men. 'The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men,' and he proceeds to demonstrate the prevalence of sin first of all in the heathen world and to lay bare its meaning.
From St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans, Vol. I A Practical Exposition by Charles Gore D.D. Reprinted in 1900. Lightly updated to the language of the 21st century by D. N. Pham. (c) 2012.
Insights of the past for the present
To the Romans, vol I - C. Gore
ON THE BOOK SHELF
May your insights be worthy.