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Theology in Romans

I.  Introduction:

 We have spent the last few weeks on Sunday mornings looking at Romans 1:18-3:20.  In this passage Paul teaches about the depravity of men.  He makes it clear that the Gentile/pagan world is guilty of suppressing the truth and turning to idolatry (1:18-32).  He goes on to argue that Jews are guilty before God as well even though they have the Law (2:1-3:8).  He concludes that all are guilty, none are righteous, and all are without excuse before God (3:9-20).  We can summarize what Paul teaches us here with this sentence: All men are depraved and guilty before God, desperate for Him to save them.  In our time together tonight, I want to look at some other passages and what they teach us about the doctrine of manís sin.  I want to follow the two approaches that we spoke of last week, namely biblical theology (the story of manís sin in the bible) and systematic theology (a summary of the teaching on sin in the bible).  Weíll begin with the story.

II.  Biblical and Systematic theology (and what they teach us concerning sin)

 A.  Biblical Theology: As we have noted, biblical theology is a discipline that seeks to see the story of the Bible as a whole.  So then, when it comes to the study of manís depravity we are asking: what does the whole story teach us about manís sin?  Grudem notes in his brief chapter on sin: ďThe story of the human race, as presented in the Bible, is the story of God fixing broken people living in a broken world.  It is the story of Godís victory over the many results of sin in the world.Ē1  Most stories involve some sort of conflict, something that has to be overcome.  As Grudem notes, the main conflict in the Bibleís story of man is sin.  In one sense, the whole bible is about God overcoming sin for His glory.  In order to illustrate this, let me break the bible into two sections: Creation to Fall, Fall to New Creation.  Letís consider these:

  1.  Creation to Fall: The story of manís sin begins with Adam and Eve in the  garden.  God made everything good, placed Adam and Eve in the garden with one  command, and they disobeyed.  Adam was free to sin or not to sin and he chose to sin.   Because of this choice, the whole history of humanity was impacted negatively.  Every  man (save One) who has been born since has been born a sinner, a child of Adam, which  leads to our next section.

  2.  Fall to New Creation: After the Fall, sin is the consistent problem with  humanity.  All of the other problems are merely symptoms of this one.  From Genesis 3  until the end of Revelation, the conflict with sin rages on.  Even the Ďgoodí characters of  the Old Testament are plagued by sin.  Noah got drunk as soon as he got off the ark (see  Genesis 9:20-21).  Abraham lied about his wife and listened to Sarah and her plan to have  offspring through Hagar (see Genesis 12, 20 and 16).  Moses struck the rock and was  prevented from entering the Promised Land (see Numbers 20).  David, the man after  Godís own heart, slept with Bathsheba and murdered her husband (see 2 Samuel 11).   Thus, even these great men of God in the Old Testament were clearly sinners.  They were  not free from sin themselves and were therefore unable to remedy the conflict.  Yet, when  Jesus is born, we are told from the beginning that He has come to deal with sin.  The  angel tells Joseph: She (Mary) will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he  will save his people from their sins.  Jesus came to save us from our sins through His life  of complete obedience, His death on the cross, and His glorious resurrection.  And even  though His followers continue to battle with sin throughout their lives, they are no longer  slaves to it (see Romans 6) and they have the promise that one day they will be  completely victorious over it through Godís grace (see Hebrews 12:23 and Revelation  21:27).  Thus, the story of the Bible teaches us of manís constant conflict with sin and  Godís victory over it through Christ.

 B.  Systematic Theology: We do not have time to look at every passage that explicitly speaks of sin.  Yet, I think we can make a few general statements about the bibleís teaching on sin and look at a few passages that support these conclusions.

  1.  All men are born sinners.  As we have seen, Paul teaches this idea in Romans  1:18-3:20.  Likewise, he states explicitly in 3:23: for all have sinned and fall short of the  glory of God.  What about the rest of the bible?  Look at Genesis 6:5.  The thoughts of  manís heart is described as only evil continually.  God graciously saved Noah and his  family, but we have already noted that he too was a sinner.  Look at Psalm 51:5 and 58:3.   We are born with a sin problem, for we are all born with a sinful nature.  Look at  Ecclesiastes 7:20.  There are none who never sin. All are sinners.  Likewise, look at 1  John 1:8, 10.  John notes that we simply cannot deny the fact that we sin.  It we try to do  it we are only deceiving ourselves and calling God a liar.

  2.  All men are slaves to sin/dead in sin.  Just how bad is the problem of sin?  Paul  told this morning, quoting from the Old Testament, that because of sin none are  righteous, none seek God, all are corrupt and have become worthless (Romans 3:10-12).   Yet, is this taught in the rest of the bible?  Well, considering the fact that Paul is quoting  from Psalm 14 and 53 in those verses, it is not hard to conclude that the bible does in fact  support such teaching.  Consider Jeremiah 17:9: The heart is deceitful above all things,  and desperately sick; who can understand it?  Likewise, Jesus teaches in John 8 that we  are slaves to sin and children of the Devil.  Look at John 8:34 and 44.  John notes that the  whole world lies in the power of the evil one (1 John 5:19).  And similar to Romans, Paul  makes it clear that we were all dead in our sins before Christ.  Look at Ephesians 2:1-4.   We were all dead, all following the course of the world, all following the Devil.  We were  all by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.  

  3.  All men are unable to solve the sin problem.  Because every man is born a  sinner and dead in their sins, there is absolutely nothing that a man can do about his own  sin problem.  Even the sacrificial system involved transferring sin to something else,  namely bulls and goats (see Leviticus 16:16, 22).  The only hope for man is God.  Yet,  Paul and the psalmist both affirm that no one seeks for God (Romans 3:11, quoting Psalm  14 and 53).  We cannot come to God unless He seeks us first.  This is what Jesus teaches  in John 6:44: No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.  Thus,  we cannot solve the problem by ourselves.  We cannot even look to Christ and what He  has done for our sin apart from Godís gracious call.  All glory belongs to Him in the  victory over sin.

III.  Some further questions:

 A.  What does it mean to be dead in sin?  As we have noted above, it means that we will not seek God apart from His grace.  It means that we are desperate for Him to make us alive in Christ and save us by His grace through faith (see Ephesians 2:1-10).  Does it mean that are choices are not real choices?  No, there is a sense in which we are free to choose whatever we want.  The problem is that the bible teaches that due to our slavery to sin, we will only choose sin.  Even when we think we are choosing good, even our good deeds are tainted with sin (see Isaiah 64:6).  Yet, this leads to my next question.

 B.  Are we as bad as we can possibly be?  No, we are actually not as bad as we could possibly be.  God uses circumstances and consequences to restrain evil in the world.  Theologians refer to this as Ďcommon grace.í  For example, most people choose not to act on their anger and actually murder someone in part because of their fear of the consequences (guilt, isolation, prison, death).  Thus, even though we are enslaved to our sins outside of Christ, Godís common grace restrains us from being as wicked as we could possibly be.

IV.  Conclusion:

 Paul teaches in Romans 1:18-3:20 the truth about manís depravity in accordance with the rest of the bible.  All of the bible points us to our desperate need for a Savior, one who can save us from our sins.  Thus, may we never fail to be amazed and rejoice at the angelís statement to Joseph.  Jesus came to save his people from their sins.  All glory to Him for such a salvation!  Amen.

1 Wayne Grudem, Christian Beliefs (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005), p. 62.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Friday, 06 August 2010 )

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