Are the Heathen Really Lost?



Are the heathen really lost?  What about those who have never heard the gospel?   What about people in the jungle who have never heard the name of Jesus?  Will they go to hell?   If Jesus is the only way to God (John 14:6) and the only way of salvation (Acts 4:12), then what is the fate of those who do not know about Jesus and who do not know the Way?

These are very important questions, and the Book of Romans provides very helpful answers to these questions.  The following study is taken from our verse by verse exposition of the Book of Romans.  We have included those verses that relate to this issue. 

Romans gives very interesting answers to these questions.  One question that is often asked is this:  "What about those people who do not have any knowledge of the true God?"   The Book of Romans (especially chapter 1) gives us the surprising answer that they do know!  Another question that is often asked, "What about those people who have never heard?"   The Book of Romans (especially chapter 10) gives us the surprising answer that they have heard!

Please take your time with this material and study it through from beginning to end.  Think about what the text says and take time to digest it.  Paul does not give a simple one verse answer.  He presents a skilled argument that is developed over many verses.  We need to follow his flow of thought.  Thus, the following material is lengthy, but it relates directly to our main question.

Romans Chapter 1

Romans 1:17 (don't skip over this part; make sure you read the verse each time)

"Therein" = in the gospel (see verse 16). The righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel.

"The righteousness of God" -- Man lacks righteousness (Rom.3:10) and man needs righteousness (compare 1 Cor. 6:9). How can men get the righteousness that they need?

"By faith" -- Men must receive and appropriate this righteousness BY FAITH. God used this verse (Romans 1:17) to open the eyes of Martin Luther. As he was thinking on this verse it suddenly dawned on him that justification was BY FAITH, not by human effort, not by good works, not by sacraments, not by rituals or by any such thing, but by faith in Jesus Christ. Luther himself said, "For God does not want to save us by our own (righteousness) but by an extraneous righteousness, one that does not originate in ourselves but comes to us from beyond ourselves, which does not arise on earth but comes from heaven" (Lectures on Romans). This doctrine of JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH became one of the three great pillars of the Reformation (the other two were THE SUPREME AUTHORITY OF THE BIBLE and THE UNIVERSAL PRIESTHOOD OF BELIEVERS).

Romans 1:18

"The wrath of God" -- The subject of God's wrath is sadly ignored in most religious circles today. God’s love is frequently mentioned but God's wrath is rarely spoken of. In presenting the gospel Paul knew that he must present the bad news before presenting the good news. We need God’s righteousness (verse 17) but we deserve God’s wrath (verse 18). Before a man is ready for salvation he must see his NEED for salvation. See Luke 5:27-32. People don’t go to the doctor unless they have a need. People don’t go to the Saviour unless they see themselves as needy sinners.

"Ungodliness and unrighteousness" -- In these first three chapters of Romans (especially chapter 3) we are going to see how ungodly and unrighteous we really are! We will learn that we deserve Godís wrath to the full!

God must judge and pour out His wrath against all that does not measure up to His standard of righteousness. How do you measure up against the standard of Godís perfect righteousness? 1) Do you measure up when compared with Jesus Christ, the only man who was truly righteous? 2) How do you measure up next to Godís righteous law (the 10 Commandments in particular)?  Have you faithfully kept all of these commandments?  It we are honest before God end with ourselves, what must we conclude (Romans 3:10)?

Note: It is important to note carefully how Paul presents the gospel. He begins with God’ s wrath from heaven coming against the unrighteous and the ungodly! Before presenting the good news he presents the bad news so that we will understand how desperately we need God’s gospel. There are basically two ways to present the gospel: 1) ON THE BASIS OF PERSONAL BENEFIT (How can the gospel benefit me? What are the benefits and advantages of being a Christian? Will the gospel make me happy? successful? satisfied? etc.); 2) ON THE BASIS OF PERSONAL NEED (Man is a helpless and hopeless sinner under the wrath and condemnation of a holy God, and therefore he needs to be saved or else he is eternally doomed).

Very often today the gospel is presented on the basis of personal benefit. Here is an example of such a presentation taken from a gospel tract:

You want fun, freedom, and life, donít you? Good! Youíre just the person I want to talk with. I feel just as you do. You ask, "How can you feel like me? I thought you were a Christian." I am. But still I have basic human desires, such as satisfaction, happiness, freedom, and a score more. And I find all these fulfilled in my best friend, Jesus Christ. From experience, I know it pays to be a Christian right here and now. Even if there were no heaven or hell (which there is), I would still be a Christian today. Why? Because I know that the Christian life is the best. Itís the only life worth living.

Now we must admit that these things are true. Satisfaction, happiness, freedom and many other benefits are all found in Christ Jesus and the Christian life is certainly the only life worth living. But should we present the gospel on this basis? Was this Paul’s approach? There are many, many unsaved people who think that they are very happy. They are relatively satisfied with life, things are going well for them and they enjoy what they are doing. They are satisfied with their lifestyle and they do not see any compelling reason why they should become a Christian. "Christianity is fine for you if it makes you happy," they say, "but I’m comfortable and quite happy with the way I am now living." They do not see their NEED for Christ.

Illustration: Suppose the hospital contacts you and says, "Why don’t you come in tomorrow and have an operation? We are not very busy these days and we want to keep our staff busy. We will put you under the knife and cut you up and check you out and sew you back together again. It will do wonders for you. After a few days you’ll feel great! You’ll enjoy wonderful health! You’ll get more out of life! All these benefits will be yours if you let us operate on you." Would you volunteer? Why not? On the other hand, suppose some medical experts told you that you had a deadly, spreading cancer in your body that would soon kill you unless it was removed. Would you submit yourself to the operating table then? Why?

People must see how NEEDY they are. People must see how much they need the salvation which is offered in Christ. After reading the first three chapters of Romans you will realize that you have a deadly cancer in your soul (sin) and that there is nothing you can do to heal yourself. The only cure is found in Christ ("Life is short, death is sure, sin the cause, Christ the cure!").

One other thought: If people come to Christ on the basis of personal benefits, they may be coming for the wrong reason. Jesus came to save us from our _______ (Matt. 1:21), not from our unhappiness or our loneliness or our unsuccessful way of living. These other things are but surface symptoms of a much deeper end more fundamental problem: man is not in a right relationship with his Creator because of SIN. When this fundamental problem is solved then the minor surface problems will be corrected as well. Sadly most people are ignorant of what the big problem really is. The thing that they are concerned about the least is the thing which they should be concerned about the most: THE SIN PROBLEM!


(Romans 1:18 continued)  "Hold" = hold down, suppress

Please notice that these people were not ignorant of the truth and they were not without the knowledge of the truth. They had the truth but they suppressed it. (Think of a "Jack-in-the-box". Jack pops up but they push him back down and hold him down, put the lid back in place and pretend he is not there. This is what people do to God’s truth.)

Romans 1:19

We learned in verse 18 that these people were not ignorant of the truth. They had the truth but they suppressed it. Now Paul is going to carefully explain how these people had possession of the truth concerning the true God.  In Romans 1:19 we learn that God has made Himself known to these people. He has manifested Himself and revealed Himself to them. How has God done this? Verse 20 explains.

Note:    The first 3 chapters in Romans deal basically with one simple question: Is all the world condemned before a holy God? Is all the world lost? As mankind stands before God the righteous Judge, is the verdict GUILTY or NOT GUILTY? For a preview of the answer see Romans 3:9,19,23. In Chapter 1 Paul proves that the heathen man is lost and without excuse. In the first part of chapter 2 he proves that the moral man is lost and without excuse. In the last part of chapter 2 and in chapter 3 he proves that the religious man (the Jew) is lost and without excuse.

Don’t Forget!    Let’s quickly review what we have already covered:

Romans 1:17 -- This is what we NEED (the righteousness of God)
Romans 1:18 -- This is what we DESERVE (the wrath of God)

As we will learn later, God’s grace will give us the righteousness that we need (Rom. 3:24; 5:17; 5:20-21) and God’s mercy will keep us from the wrath which we deserve (Rom. 5:9; 11:32). When the Lord Jesus died on the cross God’s wrath came down upon Him (Rom. 5:6-10) and when I believe on Christ and receive Him as my Saviour by faith the righteousness of God is put to my account (Rom. 3:21-22; 4:1-5; 5:15-21).

Romans 1:20

Remember the context of verse 19. Men have the knowledge of God. God has made Himself known to them. How has God done this? Verse 20 explains.

"Of Him" = of God    Notice the paradox: men can clearly see the invisible things of God! The invisible God wants men to see Him! God is invisible but He is clearly seen!

"By the things that are made" -- CREATION MAKES KNOWN THE CREATOR. The visible things that are made point to the invisible Creator! Design in nature points to a great Designer! The "things that are made" point to the divine MAKER. 

Note the two things that we can learn about God from Creation: 1) His eternal POWER; 2) His GODHEAD (deity).

Illustration: Consider Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, where there is a huge sculpture of the heads of four Presidents (Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt). Each head is 60 feet high! About 3 million people visit this interesting national memorial each year. Suppose Mr. Sam Smith visited this mountain for the very first time and no one told him anything about how the heads were formed. What would Sam think?

a. He would think that the heads were formed by CHANCE. The sculpture somehow just happened.
b. He would think that all the forces of nature (winds, rains, snow, storms, etc.) had their effect upon this mountain for thousands and thousands of years until finally the rocks were accidentally shaped in just the right way.
c. He would realize that intelligent men must have formed and carved out such a massive sculpture.

By simply looking at Mt. Rushmore, Mr. smith could learn certain things about the men who formed and carved it (even though he had never seen or met these men):

1) These men must have had INTELLIGENCE to be able to plan and design such a monument.
2) These men must have had WISDOM to be able to carry out such a great project. Indeed it took more than six years to complete;
3) These men must have had POWER to be able to carve into hard granite (using dynamite, etc.).
4) These men must have had SKILL to be able to transform a rugged cliff into an artistic masterpiece.

In the same way, by simply looking at Creation, we can learn many things about the Creator. Here are some of the things we can learn about God:

1) GODíS ORDERLINESS (He is a God of law and order) -- the law of gravity and all the other unchangeable laws of nature;

2) GODíS ARTISTRY Ė colorful sunsets, peacock feathers, colors on tropical fish;

3) GODíS POWER -- thunderstorms, tornados, tidal waves;

4) GODíS GOODNESS -- rain from heaven, fruitful seasons, sunshine enjoyed by all (Acts 14:17; Matthew 5:44-45);

5) GODíS GREATNESS (BIGNESS) -- the vast dimensions of our universe. Our galaxy, the Milky Way, contains 300,000,000 suns. We canít even count all the galaxies, much less all the stars (Psalm 8:3-4; Genesis 15:5; Jer. 31:37; 33:22; Psalm 147:4);

6) GODíS INTELLIGENCE -- the human brain is far more complex and far more complicated than any computer that man has ever made, and computers are made by intelligent men (see Psalm 139:14);

7) GODíS CREATIVITY (His unlimited ability to create and design with amazing variety and originality) -- every snowflake is a six-sided crystal and yet no two are alike; no two people are alike and there are differences even among identical twins;

8) GODíS WISDOM (the All-Wise God created the world in the very best way) -- the sun is not too far from the earth and not too close to the earth, planet earth has just the right amount of water, oxygen, etc.

9) GODí S CARE (see Matthew 6:26-30; 23:37) -- birds feeding, the lily clothed; the chick protected and nestled by the hen;

10) GODí S FAITHFULNESS -- the day-night cycle; the seasonal cycle (see Genesis 8:22; Jer. 31:35-36; 33:20).

God’s Two Books

How has the Creator revealed Himself to us that we might know Him? Because God wants to make Himself known and reveal Himself to men, He has written TWO BOOKS. These TWO BOOKS tell us about the Creator! God wants men to read BOTH of these books so that they will come to know Him.

Book 1 – The Creator's Work (Creation)
(Psalm 19:1-6)




Book 2–The Creator’s Words (The Bible).
(Psalm 19:7-11)



All men read BOOK 1, but very few people really read BOOK 2. BOOK 1 is THE CREATOR’S WORKS (CREATION) and is described in Psalm 19:1-6. BOOK 2 is THE CREATOR’S WORD (the BIBLE) and is described in Psalm 19:7-11. Illustration: Think of Children’s books. Some contain words but some just contain pictures. BOOK 1 is a PICTURE BOOK. There are no words. Man only needs to LOOK and SEE (Rom. 1:20 – God's power and deity "are clearly SEEN") . A baby begins to read BOOK 1 when be first opens his eyes to explore and to discover the world around him.

Which book can be read and understood even by those who are ILLITERATE (see Psalm 19:2-4)? _____________

Which book is written in a universal language (no translation problem because it is written in a language that can be understood by all)? ________________

Which book teaches us about the heavens (Genesis 1:1)? ____________

Which book teaches us about how to get to heaven (John 14:6)? __________________

Which book can make a person wise unto God’s power and greatness and glory (Rom. 1:20)? ___________________

Which book can make a person wise unto salvation (see 2 Timothy 3:15) ____________

Which book is able to convert the soul (Psalm 19:7)? _____________

Which book will pass away (Matthew 24:35)? ________

Which book will never pass away (Matthew 24:35)? ________

Which book do all scientists read? __________

Which book do few scientists read and study? ____________

Which book can help us to know about God and which book can help us to REALLY KNOW GOD IN A PERSONAL WAY? ___________

What about the HEATHEN? What about those in the middle of the jungle? What about those who do not know and have never heard? God’s surprising answer is this: THEY DO KNOW (Romans 1:19-21) and THEY HAVE HEARD (Romans 10:13-18)! Notice Paul’s argument in Romans 10:13-18. Men need to hear (verse 14); the gospel must be preached (verse 15); the gospel must be believed (verses 16-17); but then verse 18 emphasizes that everyone has heard! God has reached everyone at least with Book 1. Book 1 is not enough to bring man salvation (Book 2 is needed for that) but Book 1 is enough to render man WITHOUT EXCUSE (compare Rom. 1:20). If men reject the message of Book 1 (see Romans 1:21), is God obligated to give men Book 2?  [However, having said this we should remember Romans 1:14 – "debtor". Every Christian should feel an obligation to get the gospel to all men.]  Earthly illustration:  A rich man sees a poor man in need of food for himself and his family.  Out of compassion he gives the man $20.00.  He intends to give him more, but he gives him only $20.00 to see what he will do with it.  The poor man immediately spends it on drink and drugs.  Knowing this, would the rich man be likely to give him $100.00?  If we don't handle what we are given in the right way, we may not be given more.

Romans 1:21

"THEY KNEW GOD" – but what did they do with this knowledge? God had made Himself known (verses 19-20), but they willfully rejected this revelation. Remember, according to Biblical history, mankind started with the knowledge of the one true God: ADAM had the knowledge of the one true God. NOAH and his family had the knowledge of the one true God. But somewhere down the line this knowledge became corrupted, even as described in this verse. They rejected the light that they had and the result was that "their foolish heart was darkened."

"Glorified Him not" -- failed to honor Him for who He was

"Neither were thankful" -- failed to thank Him for what He had done. They did not honor Him as the Creator and did not thank Him as the Sustainer of Life (Acts 17:28). They ate from the gracious hand of their Creator every day, but they refused to give thanks (compare people today).

Verse 21 shows us man’s DEGENERATION (man going down, not up, man regressing not progressing).  It's the very opposite of evolution. [The theory of evolution, when applied to religion, teaches that man started with very primitive notions about God and that he gradually evolved from polytheism (many gods) to monotheism (belief in one God). The Bible disproves this theory, showing that man from the very beginning (Adam, later Noah) started with a knowledge of the one true God and that religious beliefs degenerated from there.] Mankind started with a knowledge of the Creator but that knowledge was rejected.

"Vain" = empty, instead of filling their minds with worthy thoughts of God they turned to vanities

"Darkened" --- They had light, but they rejected the light which they had, so there was nothing left but darkness.

Romans 1:22

"Fools" = morons, very stupid persons. Compare Psalm 14:1--"The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God."  Creation reveals the fact that there is a God; whereas the fool says in his heart, "There is no God."  It's a denial in spite of overwhelming evidence. This would be like a man who is given a tour of the world's greatest computer and then says, "No one made this computer.  It just happened to pop into existence!"  What a fool!

Illustration: The jungle native is wise enough to know that the one who makes something is greater than the thing made. What does he do? He cuts down a tree and with half of the trunk makes a canoe. He knows that as the maker of the canoe he is greater than the canoe. He then uses the same tree to make an idol and he worships it! Instead he should have cried out from his heart, "I want to come to know the One who made this tree and this world!" Does God honor the seeking heart (Jer. 29:13; Heb. 11:6)? For a modern example of men professing to be wise but really being fools, see the September 1976 National Geographic article entitled "The Awesome Worlds Within a Cell" . On page 358 the authors describe the utter complexity of the cell. There is no such thing as a "simple one-celled organism"! Even the simplest cell has turned out to be "a micro-universe" (p.358). Then on p.388 we read, "...this really is the major problem of biology. How did this complexity arise?...biologists still confront the deep, basic mystery of science: How did it all begin?" Then on page 390 the "experts" answer this by crediting it all to CHANCE and saying that given enough time even the IMPOSSIBLE can happen! With time, chance and evolution all things are possible !!! "They have become fools" -- Romans 1:21-22.

Romans 1:23

The word "changed" means "exchanged."  Man started with the true religion: the worship of the glorious Creator-God. This quickly degenerated into CREATURE-WORSHIP (compare verse 25). Such creature-worship, is clearly and strongly prohibited by God -- Exodus 20:4-5; Deut. 4:15-19; 5:8-9.

Compare Romans 1:23 with Psalm 106:20 and Jeremiah 2:11 (no wonder it says they "became fools"--verse 22).

Even in the apocrypha such sin and folly was held up to scathing ridicule:

An experienced woodcutter will cut down a tree that is easy to handle. Skillfully he strips off all its bark. And then, with pleasing workmanship, he makes a useful article that serves lifeís needs . . . But he takes a castoff piece, one that is good for nothing, a stick crooked and full of knots. He carves it with care...and causes it to resemble a man. Or he makes it to look like some worthless animal, giving it a coat of red paint, and with paint covering every blemish . . .Then he makes for it a suitable niche, sets it in the wall, and fastens it with iron. He takes care that it does not fall, because he knows that it cannot help itself, for it is only an image and in need of help. Then he prays (to it) about possessions and his marriage and children. . . For health he appeals to a thing that is weak. For life he prays to a thing that is dead. For aid he entreats an object that is thoroughly inexperienced . . .He asks strength of a thing whose hands have no strength (Wisdom of So1omon 13:11-19, abbreviated).

Man did not do very well in this "exchange." Man gave up the glory of the incorruptible God and he ended up with something quite worthless (a helpless and hopeless idol). Notice that this is not evolution, it is DEVOLUTION (retrograde evolution, degeneration). Man is not progressing, he is regressing. Man is going backwards, not forwards. This is not man going up, up up, but it is man going down, down, down. It is not man getting better and better but man getting worse and worse. It is not man reaching the heights, it is man plummeting to the depths.  Romans chapter 1 is totally contrary to "the evolution of religion" as commonly taught. Man did not gradually reach the heights of monotheism. Man began there and fell from there.

Consider Hosea 4:1. Why are people without the knowledge of the true God? Did they never have this knowledge or did they have it and reject it? Hosea 4:6 answers this clearly (this was true of the nation Israel here in Hosea, but the same principle is obvious in Romans chapter 1).

God’s Three Deliveries (Introduction to the Next Section)

Three times in this next section we read, "GOD GAVE THEM UP" (see Romans 1:24,26,28). It is the same Greek word each time and it means "to hand over, give over, deliver, turn over, give up a person." It is used of Judas who delivered over or betrayed Jesus (Matthew 26:21,23,24; 27:3; etc.). Here it is used of God giving men over to their own lusts.  Compare Psalm 81:12--"So I gave them up unto their own hearts' lust: and they walked in their own counsels."  In judgment God gives them up and abandons them to their own sinful way. They abandoned God so He abandoned them. In judgment God gave them up, delivered them over to their own lusts (sinful desires), took away restraint (as a dog let loose from his leash) and let sinful men have just what they want.

Romans 1:24

"Wherefore"--this points back to the previous verses (21-23). Why did God give them up? Because they gave God up and exchanged His glory for a dumb idol. See Psalm 115 which illustrates the folly of idolatry. Those who make the idols are just as dumb as the idols!

"Uncleanness"--this is what they wanted so God let them have it. Illustration: Dress up a pig, clean him up for the county fair, but the moment you "give him up" and let him go, he will go right back to the mud hole. As to its nature the pig loves uncleanness.  Men love their sin (compare John 3:19).

"Dishonor their own bodies"-this will be explained later in Romans 1:26-27.

Romans 1:25

"Changed" = exchanged.  Instead of embracing the truth they gave it up in exchange for the lie.

"THE TRUTH" = The Creator alone is worthy of worship!

"THE LIE" = The creature is worthy of worship. The devil tempted Jesus with this lie in Matthew 4:9 ["fall down and worship me (a creature)"]. Jesus answered the devil with the truth in Matthew 4:10 ["Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God and him only shalt thou serve" -- God alone is worthy of worship].

Compare the teaching of the Jehovah’s Witness cult. They teach that Jesus is a mere CREATURE [an exalted angel whom God originally created, and then they teach that through (by means of) this angel God created everything else.]  Jehovah Witnesses then are faced with a serious problem. If Christ is a CREATURE (as they teach) and if CREATURE-WORSHIP is condemned by God (Romans 1:25-and many other places in the Bible), then why is CHRIST-WORSHIP accepted and even demanded? Consider the following:

  1. The Bible clearly teaches that worship belongs to God alone and is never to be rendered to any creature, no matter how exalted that creature might be. For example, the apostles refused worship (Acts 14:11-15), Peter refused worship (Acts 10:25-26), angels refused worship (Rev. 19:10; 22:8-9), Christ commanded men to worship God alone (Matthew 4:8-10) and men are punished for accepting what belongs only to God (Acts 12:21-23).
  2. Yet this same Bible teaches that Christ is to be worshipped as God:
    1. Christ accepted and encouraged such worship (Matthew 14:31-33; 15:25-28; 28:9-10; 28:16-18; John 9:35-39).
    2. Christ demanded such worship (John 5:23).
    3. The Father commands such worship of Christ (Hebrews 1:6). Compare also Psalm 2:12 ("kiss" = worship, do homage to).
    4. Christ will actually be worshipped by the host of heaven (Revelation 5:8), that is, angelic creatures.
    5. This worship of Christ will finally become universal (Philippians 2:10-11).  Saved and unsaved alike will bow the knee to Christ and acknowledge Him as Lord.

Conclusion: The Jehovah’s Witnesses err greatly in their understanding of WHO JESUS CHRIST REALLY IS. The Bible teaches that He is the CREATOR-GOD Who is worthy of worship. As Romans 9:5 says, Christ is the One who is OVER ALL, GOD BLESSED FOREVER (Jehovah’s Witnesses try to get around this verse by re-punctuating it, and some other Bible translations also do the same. We will study this verse in detail when we get to Romans chapter 9).

For a detailed study on these issues, see The Deity of Christ

In Romans 1:25 Paul made it very clear that he worshipped the Creator! In this verse he bursts into a doxology of praise (very similar to Romans 9:5). As Paul here praises the Creator he may have had the second Person of the Godhead (the Lord Jesus Christ) particularly in mind (see those passages which identify Jesus Christ as the Creator: Colossians 1:13-16; John 1:1-3; Ephesians 3:9; Hebrews 1:2; 1 Corinthians 8:6).

Additional note on Romans 1:25: There is one other passage in the New Testament which specifically mentions "THE LIE."  It is found in 2 Thessalonians 2:11. In the context we again see that "the lie" is the same as in Romans 1:25. The lie is that the creature is worthy of worship. Notice that creature-worship is described in verse 4. The man of sin (a mere man) will put himself in the place of God and present himself as an object of worship (for an enlargement of this prophecy see Revelation chapter 13).  Indeed, he will demand such worship and punish those who refuse to do so.

Romans 1:26

These people rejected THE TRUTH and embraced THE LIE. They gave up the truth and therefore God gave them up. They abandoned God and God abandoned them (gave them over to their own lusts and passions).

"Affections" = passions

"Vile" = When you think of this word, think of three words that begin with the letter "D":  Dishonorable, Degrading, Disgraceful.

"Women" = a specific word meaning "females"

"Change" = exchange (they made a bad trade, exchanging the God-given use of their bodies for that which is perverted and "against nature")

"Natural use" = natural and normal sex relations, God-ordained sex relations (compare Hebrews 13:4).  Only God can define what is normal and what is abnormal, what is moral and what is immoral.   

"Against nature" = unnatural, abnormal, perverse, improper

Romans 1:27

"Men" = a specific word meaning "males"

"Natural"-that which is natural, normal, proper and right in God’s sight (God is the One who sets the norms and standards.)

"Burned" = they were inflamed sexually, boiling with desire (not love but lust).

"Men with men" = homosexuality

"Unseemly" = shameful

"Receiving" = getting just what they deserve because of what they have done

"Recompence" = reward, penalty

"Meet" = necessary, inevitable (such sin cannot go unpunished)

Romans 1:28

Here we have the third divine "delivery" -- "God gave them over" or "God gave them up". In the Greek there is actually a word play (pun) which in English might be brought out as follows: "They reprobated the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a reprobate mind" or "They cast out the knowledge of God, so God gave them up to a cast-out mind!" They abandoned the knowledge of God and so God abandoned them. This is a terrible judgment: to give men up so that they follow the impulses of their own corrupt minds, and so that they follow the desires of their own depraved hearts!   "So I gave them up unto their own hearts' lust: and they walked in their own counsels" (Psalm 81:12).

Romans 1:29-31

Paul now gives us (in verses 29-31) one of the most terrible and sobering lists of vices found anywhere in the Bible. He gives us an appalling catalogue of the crimes of these people. What we actually have here is "GOD'S X-RAY of the human heart" (compare Jeremiah 17:9 and the words of Jesus in Mark 7:21-23). As we examine this list, search your own heart. After reading each description ask yourself, "Lord, is it I?  Have I been guilty of this?  Is this a description of me?"

FILLED WITH ALL UNRIGHTEOUSNESS -- a general word (see verse 18) which involves any kind of wrong thinking, speaking, acting or living.

FILLED WITH ALL FORNICATION -- This word is missing from some of the Greek manuscripts, and this is why it is not found in some translations.  We get our word "pornography" from this Greek word. It is a general word for any kind of illicit sex (anything contrary to what God established in Genesis 2).

FILLED WITH ALL WICKEDNESS -- wickedness, evil, those who delight in doing what is wrong

FILLED WITH ALL COVETOUSNESS --  literally, "to have more", the craving to have more and more and more. The opposite of covetousness is contentment and satisfaction. Thus it refers to people who are not satisfied with what they have (greedy people).

FILLED WITH ALL MALICIOUSNESS -- wickedness, depravity, badness in general

FULL OF ENVY -- jealousy (over what someone else has)

FULL OF MURDER -- remember, Jesus said that we can also be guilty of "mental murder" which involves hatred and anger (Matthew 5:21-22).

FULL OF DEBATE -- strife, arguments, fightings, a quarrelsome disposition

FULL OF DECEIT -- a person who tricks and deceives and uses cunning

FULL OF MALIGNITY -- evil disposition, bad manner or character, someone who makes the worst out of the best

WHISPERERS -- secretly whispering about others (the Greek word is psithuristes which when pronounced almost sounds like whispering), slandering others, spreading gossip, rumors, etc.

BACKBITERS -- the Greek word literally means "to speak against", to say mean or evil things about someone who is not there (if he were there you would never say it), open slander, false charges, false accusations.

HATERS OF GOD -- God-haters, as evidenced even by the way they use God’s Name.

DESPITEFUL -- violent, one who brings harm or injury to someone (1 Tim. 1:13).

PROUD -- arrogant, literally "to appear above others, showing oneself above others"

BOASTERS -- those who brag

INVENTORS OF EVIL THINGS -- they devise and contrive and plan what evil thing they can do next.

DISOBEDIENT TO PARENTS -- this may seem out of place in such a list, yet it shows us how serious a thing this is to God. Who among us could say that he has never been guilty of this?

WITHOUT UNDERSTANDING -- Void of understanding (stupid because they are unwilling to listen to God), foolish, spiritually blind

COVENANT BREAKERS -- faithless, they don’t keep their word.

WITHOUT NATURAL AFFECTION -- unloving, heartless, lacking that natural love which parents should have for children, brothers for sisters, etc.

IMPLACABLE -- unforgiving (this word is missing from some Greek manuscripts, which explains why it is not found in some translations.)

UNMERCIFUL -- showing no mercy, ruthless, cruel

Many years ago, the late Dr. R. H. Graves of Canton, China reported that a Chinese national, who read these very verses for the first time, declared that the Apostle Paul could not have written them. They were such a perfect description of his own people that it must have been written by a modern missionary who had been to China!

Personal Question: Do any of the above words describe you? (I’m sure we do not need to travel to China to see these vices!).  Taken together these words paint a comprehensive picture of man's total depravity.  "Oh wretched man that I am!"

Romans 1:32

"Who knowing" = knowing fully

"The judgment of God" = literally "the righteous requirement, the decree, the sentence"

THE SENTENCE = You deserve DEATH! (and they know this!)

"They which commit such things" = "those who practice such things."  What things? The things that were just listed in verses 29-31.

"Worthy" = (think of weighing scales being balanced) The penalty must balance the crime, the penalty must weigh as much as the crime.

THE CRIME = see verses 29-31
THE PENALTY = "worthy of DEATH" (verse 32 and see also Romans 5:12 end 6:23)

Note: The good news of the gospel is that Jesus Christ paid this penalty when He died on the cross -- see Romans 5:6-9. Compare Romans 1:18 with Romans 5:6 as you think about the word "ungodly". Compare Romans 1:18 with Romans 5:9 as you think about the word "wrath".

PROOF that the heathen KNOW FULLY the judgment of God is found in Acts 28:1-4. These barbarians knew that murderers deserve death! (even though in this case they were mistaken about Paul.)

Notice the end of verse 32. They practice these crimes themselves (even though they know it will bring the death penalty) and "have pleasure" or applaud or congratulate others who do these things. They enjoy sin and they enjoy the company of sinners!

Summary of Romans Chapter 1:

  1. Man lacks and needs the righteousness of God (verse 17).
  2. Man deserves and has earned the wrath of God (verse 18).
  3. God has clearly revealed Himself to man through Book #1 (CREATION) so that man is without excuse (verses 19-20).
  4. Man knew God but rejected this knowledge. Man failed to honor God for who He is and man failed to thank God for what He has done (verse 21).
  5. Because man abandoned God, God in turn abandoned man and let man go his own sinful way (see the three "divine deliveries" in Romans 1:24,26,28 -- "God gave them up.")
  6. Man is unrighteous and ungodly (verses 29-31) and thus deserves God’s wrath (verse 18).
  7. As God the righteous Judge looks down upon man,

    The VERDICT is: YOU ARE GUILTY! (and without excuse).

    The SENTENCE is: YOU DESERVE DEATH! (verse 32).

Key Words In Romans Chapter 1:

  1. RIGHTEOUSNESS, UNRIGHTEOUSNESS (see verses 17,18,29)

    Man lacks the righteousness which he needs in order to be acceptable before a righteous and holy God.
  2. KNOW (see verse 19,21,28,32)

    They knew God and they fully know the judgment of God, and thus they are without excuse.
  3. GOD GAVE THEM UP (verses 24,26,28). 

    Remember, it was they who first gave God up!


Romans Chapter 10

Romans 10:14-15

These are great missionary verses showing the importance of preaching the gospel to those who have not heard. Paul gives the ORDER in the exact reverse of the chronological order: Call on Him, Believe on Him, Hear the gospel, Preach the gospel, Be sent. The chronological order is the opposite: First God sends the preacher who preaches the gospel, the sinner hears, believes in his heart and calls upon the Name of the Lord. We who are saved can thank God for sending someone with the message of good news our way. We who are saved "owe" the gospel to others who have not heard (see Romans 1:15-16 where we learn that Paul was a debtor!).

Before a person calls on Christ, he must first believe on Christ in his heart. Before the malefactor cried out, "Lord, remember me!" he first believed in his heart. His words merely expressed the faith which he already had.

Before a person believes on Christ he must HEAR (compare John 9:35-38). A person cannot believe on Christ if he has never heard of Christ. Faith fixes itself upon the facts concerning WHO CHRIST IS and WHAT HE HAS DONE. The facts are found in the Word of God and those facts must be HEARD (compare Rom.10:17).

Before a person can hear, he must have the gospel preached unto him (or have the gospel delivered to him in some way such as a tract or Gospel of John, etc.). Without a preacher there is no gospel message and thus there can be no faith and no salvation. Believers have an awesome responsibility in this because WE ARE THE PREACHERS GOD USES (neither angels nor anyone else).

Before a person can preach (v.15), he must be SENT (BY GOD)! God is the One who does the sending! God, not man, sends forth His servants and His missionaries. We do the PRAYING (Matthew 9:38) and God will do the SENDING. How beautiful are the feet of those whom God has sent who are faithfully proclaiming the good news! How ugly are the feet of those who have gone forth preaching the false message having never been sent by God (see Jeremiah 14:14,15; 23:21,32 and also Gal. 1:8-9).

A missionary was preaching in the village market, and some of the people were laughing at him because he was not a very handsome man. He took it for a time, and then he said to the crowd, "It is true that I do not have beautiful hair, for I am almost bald. Nor do I have beautiful teeth, for they are really not mine; they were made by the dentist. I do not have a beautiful face, nor can I afford to wear beautiful clothes. But this I know: I HAVE BEAUTIFUL FEET! GOD TELLS ME SO!" He then quoted the verses found in Isaiah 52:7 and Romans 10:15.

It would be wonderful if everyone who heard the good news would believe the good news and be saved. The tragedy is that the great majority of those who hear the gospel reject it, and this brings us to verse 16.

Romans 10:16

How tragic! God has good news, and men don't want it! They reject God’s offer of peace (v.15). They reject God's invitation to be saved (v.13). They reject God's riches (v.12). They reject God's so-great salvation (v.9). They reject God's righteousness (v.3). It is the tragedy of man's foolish unbelief! They have not all obeyed the gospel. Indeed, the great majority of people have DISOBEYED the gospel. How does a person disobey the gospel? By refusing to believe it! God's commandment is clearly seen in 1 John 3:23 (the first part of the verse), and those who disobey this command are disobedient to the gospel. Isaiah the prophet anticipated this terrible unbelief in the first verse of that important 53rd chapter which speaks of the Messiah dying for our sins. "Who hath believed our report?" Not many! How sad that the vast majority of Jews reject the great message of Isaiah 53 even to this day (and the majority of Gentiles do as well!).  "And to whom is the arm (symbol of strength and power) of the LORD revealed (uncovered, discovered)?" The gospel is hidden to those who are lost (2 Cor. 4:3) and the message of the cross is "foolishness" to them (1 Cor.1:18) but unto us who are saved it is the POWER of God (1 Cor.1:18,24; Rom.1:16). Isaiah 53:1 found its fulfillment in John 12:37-38, and it is still being fulfilled today as men and women reject the gospel of God's grace and refuse to trust the Son of God, the only Saviour.

Romans 10:17

The word "hearing" (two times in v.17) is the same Greek word as the word "report" in v.16. For a person to be saved there must be a report and a message that is heard, and this report or message must be believed. How can I obtain saving faith? How can saving faith come my way? I must hear the message of God's Word and respond to it in a positive way. God's Word is POWERFUL (Heb.4:12). God's Word is EFFECTUAL (1 Thess.2:13). God's Word is ALIVE (John 6:63,68; Heb. 4:12). God's Word is PENETRATING (Heb.4:12; Eph.6:17). God's Word is able to make a person WISE UNTO SALVATION (2 Tim. 3:15). Man's faith must fix itself upon God's facts and God's facts are found in the Word of God. This does not mean that everyone who hears the gospel facts from the Bible will be saved (as we have seen in Rom.10:16). But it does mean that no one will be saved without hearing the gospel facts from the Bible.

Trying to pierce a sinner's heart without the Bible is like a soldier trying to pierce the enemy's heart without a sword. Believers do not need to defend the Bible nor do they need to try to prove that its true. They simply need to USE THE BIBLE, trusting a great God to honor His Word and do the work in the hearts of men and women. God's Word will go forth and accomplish its purpose (see Isaiah 55:11). God's preachers must be men of the Book! May we never substitute our own ideas, opinions or philosophies for the pure, unadulterated truth of God's Word! Compare Ephesians 1:13 (faith comes by hearing the gospel!).

Romans 10:18

Why don't people obey the gospel (v.16)? Why don't people come to faith in Christ (v.17)? Why have so many of the Jews failed to obey the gospel and come to Christ in faith? IS IT BECAUSE THEY HAVE NOT HEARD? No, they have heard! They got the message! They heard the message! The problem was that they did not respond to the message in faith. God has no problem getting His message to men. Paul quotes from Psalm 19:4, a passage which sets forth the truth that the knowledge of God and the glory of God have been made known to all men in every part of the world by way of CREATION. We studied this in detail in Romans chapter 1. As a result, all men are WITHOUT EXCUSE because God has made Himself known. Often people will ask, "What about those people in far off lands who have never heard the gospel?" On the one hand it is certainly true that they cannot hear the gospel message (of Christ and the cross) without a preacher (Rom.10:14), and the church of Jesus Christ has been given the responsibility and the command to preach the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15) and to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20). We should also note that God is the One who SENDS THE PREACHERS (Rom.10:15 and Matthew 9:38) and in His wisdom God sends the right person to the right place at the right time with the right message. On the other hand, it is true that all men on the face of the earth have HEARD the message of God as revealed in CREATION. Because of sin men rejected and suppressed and cast out the knowledge of God which they had (Romans chapter 1, see especially verses 21-23,28).

Not only have all men heard God's revelation in nature, but there is another message which during this church age is being proclaimed far and wide, namely the gospel message:

"Preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15)
"And they went forth and preached everywhere" (Mark 16:20)
"The truth of the gospel which has come unto you, as it is in all the world" (Col. 1:5-6)
"The gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature under heaven" (Col. 1:23)
My gospel...made known to all nations for the obedience of faith (Rom.16:26)

Romans 10:19

Did Israel know about God's message going into all the earth, to the ends of the inhabited earth, even to the despised Gentiles? They should have known because their own Scriptures indicated this. First Paul quotes from MOSES (see Deut.32:21, and notice that the Bible clearly teaches that Moses was the human author of Deuteronomy, a fact that is denied by unbelievers today). In Deuteronomy 32:21 the people provoked God to jealousy by that which is not God, and so God would provoke them to jealousy by those who are "no people." They chose another god; He would choose another people! "Foolish" means without understanding. Here is a people with no understanding (see Titus 3:3), and yet they believe the gospel. The Jews, who had the Scriptures and who should have had understanding, reject Christ and His gospel. See Romans 11:11.

Romans 10:20-21

Paul's second quote is from Isaiah 65:1-2. "Made manifest" means "revealed." The Gentiles did not seek God (Rom.9:30), but God sought and found them (cf. Luke 19:10). God is the Seeker and He is now seeking "those that asked not of Him" and He has been found by those who "sought Him not." They simply heard the good news and believed! May we praise His matchless grace!

Note verse 21. What yearning, what love, what pleading! "Gainsaying" means "in opposition to God, rebellious, refusing to have anything to do with God." What words could better express God's tender invitation to sinful men as He extends His arms wide (compare Prov.1:24; Isa.65:2). "The arms outstretched all the day long are the symbol of that incessant pleading love which Israel through all its history has consistently despised" (Expositorís Greek New Testament). See Matthew 23:37. God was so willing! Man was so rebellious! Those who are lost have only themselves to blame. To reject the remedy which God has so graciously provided and offered is to be without a cure.  See our paper, God's Willingness and Man's Unwillingness.

Those who are saved have only God to thank!

Those who are lost have only themselves to blame!

George Zeller (January 2010)

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