Sermon – May 16, 2021

Romans 1:18-23 – The Great Sin (mp3)

Why is our sin so bad? Some of it is small and light, is it not? Would God send us to hell for lying in court to make sure the right verdict comes out? For simply getting angry now and again? Such questions are not new, but radically old, and are instructive. What is the real problem with our sin? And, if we can rightly identify that, what does the gospel of Jesus do about it? Today, we get a brief initial glance at our great problem, as Paul begins to outline the heart of the gospel in Romans 1:18-23. Let us hear from Paul about our great sin.

1. Paul’s Statement

    a. Paul confesses the nature of wrongdoing
The wrath of God is revealed because, in the end, all humans suppress what they truly know about God. God has placed, through creation and in our very beings, the knowledge of his power and divinity. Yet, we all at some level have oppressed this knowledge.

    b. Paul clears God of wrongdoing
God’s work in creation bears witness to this knowledge. It is not something that we simply can interpret from teh stars and the flowers, but naturally flows from creation in our minds. Yet, in our rejection of this truth, we reject God, and stand without excuse.

   c. Paul condemns humans of wrongdoing
Knowing this about God, we reject him by not glorifying him and giving him thanks. The most appropriate response to God’s greatness is to glorify that power, and to thank him for his creation of us. Yet, we do neither thing, but rather, in foolishness and through the deception of our own hearts, we (the creation) create the creator out of creation. It is horribly mixed up, and shows the foolishness of the action. Paul here is clever, adding an echo from Psalm 106 and Jeremiah 2, that while he seems to be talking directly to the Gentiles, it is clear that such idolatry is part and parcel of the Jewish experience as well.

2. Our Sin

   a. The depth of our sin is universal
As just stated, this is not the problem of the hard hearted drug dealer, or the Islamic terrorist, but is part of all of us. The kindliest of neighbors is just as guilty of this as the ugliest of fiends.

   b. The depth of our sin is not its symptoms  
That means that we should stop judging how bad we are simply by the symptoms. Everything that Paul says from this point on out flows from this sin. Yet, we sometimes judge the problems that sinners face not by the nature of the disease (our idolatry) but rather by the symptoms of that disease (our sins). Both of these are bad, and need remedy. But simply erasing sins without dealing with our suppressed idolatry is, in the end, worthless.

c. The depth of our sin glorifies Jesus’ solution
Therefore, we need to see Jesus as the great solution to all our problems. It is not just that he does away with our sin, or that he is the most helpful example, or that he deals with our enemies. All are true! Hallelujah! But he also gives us new lives, new eyes, that do not reject the truth of God, but see it plainly in Jesus. And in that we will truly understand salvation!