Paul's Letter to the Saints at Rome

by Bryan Vinson, Sr.

Rewritten In Simple English With Notes

by Paul K. Williams

Chapter One

Verses 1-2: 1 Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God 2 which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures,

This beginning statement names the writer and tells us about Paul and his relationship to Christ. He was called as an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God. He is a servant and an apostle. Paul is humble and he has a deep understanding of the great responsibility Christ gave to him.

He was set apart for the gospel of God . The gospel comes from God. If a person says that the gospel did not come from God, he is saying that the gospel is not worth much. But Paul calls it “the gospel of God”. This means that the gospel is worth more than anything else. Since Paul was an apostle for the gospel of God, his apostleship was a very valuable thing.

God used the prophets in Old Testament times to tell about the coming gospel many centuries before it came. Paul was preaching the gospel which had come just as the prophets promised.

Verses 3-4: 3 concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, 4 who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord,

The gospel began in the mind of God and was announced by the prophets. Now Paul talks about the subject of the gospel, Jesus Christ. Paul describes where he came from and His relationship to man and to God.

He was made flesh , and He was a descendant of David. This was promised in prophecy. If Jesus had not been a descendant of David, Paul could not have been preaching the true gospel. The fact that Jesus was the descendant of David shows that He was human and that he fulfilled the prophecies.

But the gospel concerns “Jesus Christ our Lord”. This shows us that he is the divine Son of God. He had to be the Son of God in order to be “Lord”.

How can we know that Jesus is the Son of God? There were records of the ancestors of Jesus. They proved that He was the son of David. However, no records could prove that He was the Son of God. He is the Son of God in His spirit. His fleshly body had a beginning, but his Spirit always was. He, nevertheless, came to be the Son of God. There was a change in his relationship. He had always existed, but He became the Son of God.

Before He came to the earth, Jesus was equal with the One who is now His Father. He became a Son to the Father when God became His Father. Many people write confusing things about this which do not make sense. As an example, some write about “the eternally begotten Son of God”.

Jesus sometimes called himself “the Son of man” and at other times he called himself “the Son of God”. He was both. As “the Son of man” He was the descendant of David. But how can we know that He is the “Son of God”?

When Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, He performed many different miracles. They proved that He was the Son of God. The greatest miracle was the raising of the dead. Paul wrote to the Ephesians about the greatness of God’s power when He raised Christ from the dead. (Eph. 1:19) When Jesus cast out a demon, the people were amazed that “with authority and power He commands the unclean spirits”. (Luke 4:36) They saw that He had both authority and power. He acted by the authority of God and used the power the Father gave him. God does not give such power to a man who is making false claims. The greatest act of all time was the resurrection of our Lord, and He was raised so that He became Lord of the living and the dead. We must believe completely that Jesus was raised from the dead or we cannot be saved. He had to be raised in order to be able to save.

Verses 5-7: 5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake 6 among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ 7 to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul was saved through grace. He said that he was not worthy to be an apostle because he had persecuted the church. He wrote, “By the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Cor. 15:10). However, in the above verses Paul was not just talking about his salvation. The grace of God saved him and made him an apostle so that he could do something for others. He was not made an apostle for his own benefit. He was “to bring about the obedience of faith” among all the Gentiles.

The expression “obedience of faith” tells us two things: 1) Faith produces obedience, and 2) faith directs our obedience. Without faith there can be no obedience of faith, though a person can have faith without obeying. Paul’s work was not finished when the Gentiles believed. His job was to produce obedience of faith in them.

This shows that a person is not saved by faith only. Paul’s apostleship was given to produce the obedience of faith. If faith only without obedience saves, Paul’s work would be finished when he caused people to believe. But it was not finished then. His work was to produce “the obedience of faith”.

Paul’s job was to produce the obedience of faith among all nations. This is the same job which all the apostles were given in the great commission. Paul’s commission was the same as that given to the twelve apostles who were told to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature, and were told that those who believed that which was preached and were baptised would be saved (Mark 16:15-16). Baptism is an act of obedience, and when one is baptised because of the faith created in the heart by the gospel it is an obedience of faith.

All obedience shows faith. And all faith comes from some source. Obedience shows that we are under a greater person. If one’s faith is in God, he will show his faith by doing what God says. If a person believes in the wisdom of men rather than in the power of God, he will do what men want him to do.

“For his name’s sake” tells us that the one we must obey is Jesus Christ our Lord. The “obedience of faith” was obedience to Christ, and the thing which caused this obedience was hearing the word of Christ.

Paul did not write to those in Rome because they were Roman citizens. He wrote to those who were the called of Jesus Christ. They were the called because they were called by the gospel and they obeyed it. The called ones are saints, or holy persons, and beloved of God. Therefore this letter was written to Christians. Paul wrote it to greatly increase their appreciation of what it means to be a Christian. He did this by telling them how God’s plan of salvation began, developed and was revealed.

This opening blessing to the brethren at Rome is like what Paul wrote to other brethren. Paul showed his great love for them when he connected grace and peace. Peace comes from grace, God is the one from whom it comes, and Christ is the one who brought it.

Verses 8-12: 8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world 9 For God, whom I serve in my spirit in the preaching of the gospel of His Son, is my witness as to how unceasingly I make mention of you 10 always in my prayers making request, if perhaps now at last by the will of God I may succeed in coming to you 11 For I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established 12 that is, that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other’s faith, both yours and mine.

Their faith was spoken of throughout the world. This means that they first had to know this faith, and second that they spoke about their faith and obeyed it. We know that their lives were changed by their faith because people spoke of their holy living. Yet they still needed the prayers of the apostle.

Paul’s service to God was in the gospel of Christ. He preached that gospel and lived it. He wanted to come to Rome if it was the will of God so that he could help them. He wanted to give some spiritual gift to them. Spiritual gifts were given by the laying on of the hands of the apostles (Acts 8:14-18; 19:1-7). The fact that Paul wanted to give them a spiritual gift shows that no apostle was in Rome. If an apostle were there, he would give them the gift and Paul would not need to come there for that purpose.

The purpose of the spiritual gift was “that you may be established”. At the time Paul wrote this book truth was being revealed through the prophets and apostles. Paul wanted to give them a gift so that they could receive this revelation. When the word of God was completely revealed, no spiritual gift was needed (See 1 Cor. 13:8-13). There are no apostles today, and no need for spiritual gifts.

Paul was an apostle with the power to give spiritual gifts, but he said that both he and the Roman Christians had the same faith. This means that the ones who gave gifts or received gifts were not greater than those who did not have gifts (1 Cor. 14:12). Spiritual gifts were given and received for the good of all Christians. They did not make anyone better than anyone else.

The gifts are no longer given, but faith continues (see 1 Cor. 13:13). It is a great and continual blessing that we have faith. All Christians have the same faith. We get it from the same Bible, we believe the same thing, and we all share the benefits of that faith.

Verses 13-15: 13 I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that often I have planned to come to you (and have been prevented so far) so that I may obtain some fruit among you also, even as among the rest of the Gentiles 14 I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish 15 So, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.

Paul planned to go to Rome, but he was prevented. On one occasion Paul tried to go to Bithynia but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow him to (Acts 16:7). He wanted to go to Thessalonica once and again, but Satan hindered him (1 Thess. 2:18). So there were different reasons why his travel plans were stopped on those occasions. In chapter 15:20-24 Paul indicates that the reason he was prevented from coming to Rome was that there was still preaching which he had to do in areas east of Rome where the gospel had not been preached.

He wanted to have fruit among them—that is, he wanted to preach the gospel and convert those to whom he preached just as he had done among other Gentiles. This means he thought he would be preaching mostly to Gentiles rather than to Jews in Rome, though there were both Jews and Gentiles in the church there.

He felt under obligation to preach the gospel to all. He was obligated to do this because he was an apostle, but others have the same duty. Timothy was solemnly commanded to preach the word (2 Tim. 4:1-2). The early Christians who were forced to leave Jerusalem went everywhere preaching the word (Acts 8:4). Paul said that though he preached the gospel he had nothing to boast of (1 Cor. 9:16). Why? He was commanded to preach and a woe rested on him if he did not.

He prayed for opportunity to preach, and so should every one who loves and knows the redeeming truth of the gospel. However, he could only do what he was able to do, so he said “so for my part”. So should we all. One has a duty to do only what he is able to do when he has opportunity. We should work to improve our abilities and make opportunities.

Verses 16-17: 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 to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.”

All that was written before this statement was looking to it and was an introduction to this greatest of statements. Further, all that is written afterward through the eleventh chapter was written because of what this statement means. It is the keynote of this letter. If we fail to understand its importance we fail to understand the whole epistle. We must therefore carefully analyze these verses.

Paul was truly not ashamed of the gospel because he wanted to preach the gospel in Rome. If he had been ashamed of the gospel, he certainly would not have wanted to go there to preach. It is possible to be ashamed of the gospel. If a person denies that it is the power of God unto salvation, he is ashamed of the gospel. Those who say that the Holy Spirit must save people directly are ashamed of the gospel because they deny that the gospel is God’s power to salvation. They think the gospel will not save unless the Holy Spirit directly and miraculously changes the heart of the sinner.

The statement that “the gospel is the power of God for salvation” says nothing about the power of God to do other things. God does use power other than the gospel to do other things, but for man’s salvation it alone is God’s power. God is all powerful, and he has chosen the gospel of Christ to save man. Because it is God’s power we know that the gospel is everything that is needed to do the job. It is POWERFUL!

Yet, its power to save is only for those who believe. The gospel does not force anyone to be saved. It has power to cause people to believe if they listen with good hearts. Those who will not be persuaded by the gospel will not be saved.

The gospel reveals the righteousness of God— not His personal righteousness, but His way of making man righteous. The gospel is God’s power to justify the sinner, and it does this by causing men to believe. This power does not save the unbeliever, and there is nothing revealed to tell us of any power which God uses to save the unbeliever.

The expression “from faith to faith” has been interpreted in different ways. The gospel reveals that only the believer can be saved, and this fact becomes a motive for believing the gospel (see Galatians 2:16). I would not say that it is a compelling and irresistible motive, for no honest person can believe anything without strong evidence to justify his belief. But when the truth is revealed that salvation is offered to those who believe the gospel, there is a strong motive to give attention to the claims of the gospel which one would not do if faith were not necessary. The general indifference of our time is largely because people do not think it is necessary to know the truth and to believe it.

I believe “from faith to faith” is explained by that which is written, “the righteous man shall live by faith” (Habakkuk 2:4). Faith is present from the beginning of spiritual life, and faith is what develops, directs and causes us to continue our lives for God (Colossians 1:23). Similar expressions are used in Psalm 84:7 (“from strength to strength”), 2 Corinthians 3:18 (from glory to glory”), and John 1:16 (grace for grace).

(Note: Connie W. Adams suggests a different understanding. In a personal letter to me he wrote: “In verse 16 Paul said the gospel is God’s power to save the believer. One becomes a believer based on the message of the gospel delivered. ‘Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God’ Rom. 10:17. It appears to me that what Paul is saying is that from the system of faith [the gospel] personal faith [conviction followed by obedience] is derived. So it is from faith [the gospel system of truth] that we come to faith [personal conviction with all that follows].” PKW)

If it does not matter what a person believes, it cannot matter whether he believes or not, but Paul says that the gospel is God’s power to salvation to every one who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. Believing is an intelligent action which requires clear evidence to produce. The gospel contains the evidence of God’s righteousness, or more properly, His justification. This is a justification by faith and not a justification by law. Because this is so, the ones who are justified are to live a life of faith. The issue is clearly formed and the theme of this letter is made clear: justification by faith instead of justification by law.

Verse 18-19: 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.

Paul here moves the discussion from the guilt of sin. He now writes about what sin produces—the suffering which comes as a result of God’s wrath poured out upon the sinner. The gospel not only saves from the guilt of sin, it saves us from what sin causes. This makes the blessedness of salvation by faith much greater.

Not only does the gospel reveal the salvation of those who believe it, but it clearly shows the condemnation of those who do not believe (Mark 16:16). When people reject the truth of God when they can know it, God is angry with a righteous wrath. He is angry because He made the truth known to them but they rejected it. They did not take notice of the evidence for it.

“Suppressing the truth in unrighteousness” means that although they possess the truth they are unrighteous. Ungodliness tells about one’s attitude toward God, and unrighteousness tells about men’s attitude and conduct toward one another. Paul speaks first of ungodliness, then in the latter part of the chapter he describes the progressive unrighteousness of those who reject the knowledge of God.

Verses 20-21: 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse 21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

It is possible to clearly see things which are invisible. They are seen through things which are visible. The seeing was not physical but mental—being understood by the things which were made. Therefore people have been able to see the invisible attributes of God ever since the world was made.

The attributes (abilities or qualities) of God which can be seen through the creation are His eternal power and divine nature. If a quality is eternal, the one who possesses it is eternal. The creation of the world required power which cannot be measured, and the power existed before the world was created. This is why God’s eternal existence can be known from the facts of creation. This knowledge caused the unrighteous ones to be without excuse. When they knew God they failed to honor Him as God. At the first they knew God, but they did not act on that knowledge. They deliberately refused to honor God. This was ungodliness, which was shown clearly when they did not give thanks.

They were not thankful for what they received from God and they were not thankful to God who gave those things. They were like the nine of the ten lepers Jesus healed (Luke 17:12-19). Unthankfulness is the lowest quality of human character, yet it can often be seen among Christians.

They became futile in their speculations. They decided they did not need God, but that they could take care of themselves. It is easy for man to deceive himself into thinking he is all sufficient and can direct his own steps. When man thinks too highly of himself he ruins himself. The desire to be as gods pushed mother Eve into ruin for herself and her offspring. “I know, O Lord, that a man’s way is not in himself, Nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23).

However, Paul is not describing people who had no religion. They rejected the knowledge of God in order to worship something else. Their ignorance was willful and came from their desire to worship something else. They were greatly to be blamed.

Verses 22-25: 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.

24 ¶ Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them 25 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

To exchange a lie for truth is always wise, and to exchange truth for a lie is always foolish. They claimed to be wise, but because their hearts were darkened and foolish they acted like fools. In their foolish wisdom they exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and changed the glory of an incorruptible God for a likeness of corruptible (perishable) man. This was the first thing they changed because of their ungodliness. This one giant step led to others, finally resulting in the worship of images of humans and animals and even creeping things. Each step away from God led to other steps, and because they had erased the knowledge of God from their hearts everything which might keep them from further sin was gone. Their unrighteousness increased and increased. These verses describe what happens when people reject God. First the purpose of God’s creation is rejected. Then people change the purpose of the natural functions God has given them. Their bodies were dishonored among them. When we use our bodies for the functions God has made them for, we honour God. When people change the proper use of their bodies into uses God did not make their bodies for, these people dishonour their bodies and God. So long as they knew God and glorified him they honoured him in honouring themselves by using their bodies in the way he designed them.

Such perversion as is described here has often been practiced and is being widely practiced today. It is even becoming acceptable in society today.

True worship is the most important and meaningful thing which man can do. But man, separated from the true God by his own choice decided to worship other things. This passage describes the changed course which man chose. God has always been a jealous God and will tolerate no other gods before Him (Matthew 4:10).

Verses 26-27: 26 ¶ For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural 27 and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.

Because of their idol worship God gave them up to these degrading (that which brings something low) passions. The language is clear and direct enough to enable anyone to understand the practices Paul refers to. One cannot imagine any lower moral practices. Thus we see that when men abandon God for ungodliness, everything which keeps them from further wickedness is removed, and God allows them to sink to the revolting level described here. Very intelligent men in times past and in the present have been homosexuals. Yet Paul says such is against nature; hence, it is unnatural and a perversion of what God has made the human body for. Today this class of human filth has its own church and is openly and brazenly seeking to be accepted by the denominations in this country. We read of marriage ceremonies being performed uniting persons of the same sex. All such developments come because of unbelief even though some of them claim to believe in God.

Paul does not clearly say what the due penalty of their error is, but he says they received it in their own persons. Some think it was physical disease brought on by such practices. Certainly the disease of AIDS is spread by homosexuality, and it can be said that this is the due penalty of their error.

Verses 28-32: 28 ¶ And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents 31 without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful 32 and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.

When men ignore and reject God, God is going to do something. We cannot mislead the One who knows the thoughts and intents of every heart, and God will not ignore us when we show we despise Him. When the conduct of these Gentiles sank lower and lower, they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer. This is easy to understand. Their actions were hated by God. If they acknowledged God their consciences would hurt them and they would feel miserable. They had to choose. Either they could forget about God or they could change their conduct. They chose to forget God.

Because they rejected the knowledge of God, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper. God did not try to stop them from becoming more and more evil. The list of evils which they practiced is depressing reading. This kind of conduct is what comes as a natural course when people reject the knowledge of God.

We do not have to think that all the sins listed in this passage were practiced by each person, but all these sins were present in their society and were common among them. Being filled with all unrighteousness is a summary of the terrible evils listed. These evils are so many and terrible that it would be difficult to add any more to the list. A brief notice of these particular sins is deserved:

Fornication: This sin is listed in the King James translation of the Bible. (See also Galatians 5:19). It has to do with sexual relations outside of marriage and is sinful because the law of God says that we must have sexual relations only with the person we are married to. History shows that there have been many periods of time when fornication was widespread, and it is certainly widespread today.

Wickedness: The wicked man is one who desires all kinds of evil and prefers evil instead of good.

Greed: Greed is a very strong desire which, because of its strength, leads a person to do wrong things in order to get what is desired. A man may desire fame and wealth so much that this becomes his consuming ambition. His whole life is devoted to getting those things. Truly the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:10); therefore it is right to name this sin along with the others in this list. Paul says that greed is idolatry (Colossians 3:5). This is true because the greedy person loves what he wants more than he loves God.

Evil: This is translated “malice” in the King James Version. The evil person is one who feels ill-will toward others. He wishes harm on those he hates. He may hide his true feelings, but God knows his heart. When a person is evil, he will harm the person he hates if he has the opportunity. Malice is much like envy because envy often causes the malice. Envy is the bad feeling a person gets when he sees the good things which another person has.

Murder: The first recorded sin after Eden was when Cain murdered his brother. When we think about it correctly, whenever a person murders he murders his brother because we are all creatures of God and made in his image. We are all the children of the same Father because we are all his creatures. The greatest indignity that can be offered to God is to murder a fellow man who was made in the image of God.

For this reason God commanded that the murderer must be killed by other people (Genesis 9:6; Romans 13:1-4). In many countries there is no death penalty for murder. These countries are failing to follow the clear command of God. A nation which will not carry out the command of God by executing murderers is storing up wrath from God.

Strife: All striving is not condemned, for we are to strive together for the faith of the gospel (see Romans 15:30). The strife which is wrong is that which comes from sinful desires and leads to violent quarrels, even murder; and it destroys peace.

Deceit: To mislead another in any matter is to practice deceit. Through deceit men become wealthy, attain positions of honour and power, and also often escape the just punishment for their evil deeds. By deceit the ends of justice are constantly being defeated.

Malice: This word is translated “malignity” in the King James Version. It is when bad feelings toward others result in all kinds of evil treatment of them.

Gossips: These are the secret slanderers; they act cowardly. A slander is a lie told to harm a person. A slander whispered can travel farther than a truth shouted from the housetop! The gossip tells his story as if he is sorry to have to tell it, but his heart is filled with evil pleasure when a good name is blackened. Gossiping comes from envy and malice, and it produces ruin which often cannot be repaired.

Slanderers: These are all those who tell lies to hurt other people. Often they do this when the one they slander is not present. Their front-line witnesses are “They say”, and “Now I cannot tell you who told me, but this is what I heard” almost always followed with: “Don’t tell anyone I told you”.

Haters of God: When one hates God he hates the one who is infinitely good. It is almost unthinkable that people will hate God. Men first had to take away the knowledge of God and in its place create a false picture of God before they could hate Him. Unhappily, some of the doctrines and commandments of men have so misrepresented Jehovah as to make Him hated instead of adored. This emotion of hate comes about because of a misunderstanding of God.

Insolent: To be insolent is to have an air of superiority, of being above, hence a looking down on others. It is to be rude, insulting, disobedient.

Arrogant: (Proud) Man has nothing to be proud of except that which God has given him. God gives us life and every good and perfect gift. If God gives one person greater ability than another, that person cannot boast. His ability came from God, not from himself. When a person has greater ability, he has a greater responsibility to use that ability in God’s service, and that fact should humble the man. But when men forget God, pride comes and when anyone succeeds more than another he becomes arrogant.

Boastful: These are proud ones who must let others know why they are so proud—they tell about what they have done. The apostle asked the question in this letter: “Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith” (Romans 3:27). Boasting comes from too great a love of our own selves and a lack of trust in the Lord.

Inventors of evil: God is not the author of evil—Satan is. When men stopped communicating with God they had only one other source to be influenced by. So what they invent shows the influence of the one to whom they are subject.

Disobedient to parents: There is a duty for children to obey parents. This is why disobedience to parents is listed as a sin along with the other terrible things. In the Ten Commandments God commanded “honor your father and mother”. This did not create the duty; it has always been the duty of children to obey their parents. Because the child is dependent on his parents, the child must honour his parents. When children learn to disobey their parents they will learn to disobey all proper authority. It is easy to see this in the many strikes and riots in schools, street demonstrations and riots, and other such things in every nation of the world. The underlying cause is the rejection of God in the thinking and lives of all such people who despise law. When children are not brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord there is created the climate for these conditions.

Without understanding: Why is this a sin? It is because it is possible to understand God’s will (Ephesians 5:17), and those who misunderstand do so because they do not want to understand.

Today multitudes are willingly ignorant of what they should know and do not understand their moral and spiritual responsibilities. Because “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Psalm 111:10), those who do not fear God do not understand.

Untrustworthy (Translated “covenant-breakers” in the King James Version): These people cannot be trusted to do what they promise. It is better not to vow (promise), than having vowed, not to keep it (Ecclesiastes 5:5). If one borrows money or buys something on credit and then is slow about paying, he is showing that he cannot be trusted. I have known preachers who were blacklisted by merchants because they would not pay their bills, and yet they continued to enjoy the recognition and respect of brethren by being used in their congregations!

Unloving (“without natural affection” KJV): Nothing is worse in a parent than when he neglects to care for the physical, moral and spiritual needs of his child. Great as the duty of children to parents is, that of the parent to the child is greater (2 Corinthians 12:14). The family is the basic society, and where family ties are loosed the very foundation of all society is undermined. Today we see a deterioration of family life caused largely by the urbanization of society. If these conditions are not reversed, they will result in the destruction of our nation.

Unmerciful: This is a hardness of heart and a stubbornness which causes a person not to help others, and not to forgive others. The unmerciful person is pitiless and insensitive to the common problems and troubles of our fellowman. Christians are commanded to be merciful and courteous, not rendering evil for evil or railing for railing, but contrariwise, blessing. Judgment will be without mercy to those who show no mercy, but happy are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy.

This completes the list of sinful acts which the Gentiles engaged in, but the closing description makes their attitude even worse. This goes beyond every outward expression of evil and gives an insight to the evil within when it becomes fully ripe. Many have engaged in sins who really wished for others to escape from those sins, but the depravity pictured here is so deep that they were pleased that others also sinned. They got satisfaction from one another. It says, “and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.”

I do not think that “death” here is physical death. My reasons are: first, all die physically whether they ever sin, and, secondly, some of these sins were private and within and of themselves were not criminal acts for which they would be executed. Today the powers that be, as ordained by God, do not put people to death for deeds that are immoral only, but for deeds that are criminal—for crimes rather than for sins. One may lust in his heart and be guilty of sin, but not guilty of a crime against society.

If, however, the death of which they were worthy is everlasting separation from God, and if the suffering is what they receive when one is separated from God, they must have known that there is an existence after death. One cannot know this simply by looking at nature. But I believe that there is something inside man which tells him that life on earth is not the whole of our existence. We must believe this in order for our consciences to work. However, because this death is connected with the wrath and indignation of God, it must be spiritual death. This death is discussed in the next chapter.

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