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Upside-down World

Romans 1:24-25

Fantasy can be fun. Many fictional stories/plays/films invite us to explore unreal worlds where important details are the opposite of what you suppose.

Without Restraint

Romans 1:26-28

Every design has its constraints. A chisel cannot be used as a screwdriver without damaging it. A petrol car will not work with diesel fuel, and a computer fails without power.

Filled with Wickedness

Romans 1:29-32

The English writer G K Chesterton said, "When people stop believing in God, they don't believe in nothing ... they believe in anything".

Religious Arrogance

Romans 2:1-4

The Early Church believers came from two different backgrounds: Jews who knew God's law, and Gentiles who had little knowledge of what displeased Him.  The Jews were tempted to look down on Gentiles, but Paul said that they were wrong to do so.  Knowing what is right does not make people holy, if they fail to do it.  And criticising others can never make the critic holy.  And anyway, hidden evil desires are as bad as visible sins (Matthew 5:21-22; Matthew 5:27-28).

Storing up Wrath

Romans 2:5-6

Many people would agree that God is love.  It is His nature and therefore He cannot stop loving people.  But at the same time God is totally opposed to all sin (Habakkuk 1:13), even though He loves sinners (Romans 5:8).  He is slow to display His anger against sin because He longs for people to repent so that they can be forgiven.  But sin is addictive, we like it which is why we continue; any radical change is stubbornly resisted.

Impartial Judgement

Romans 2:7-11

Paul wanted both Jewish and Gentile believers to know that God does not have favourites.  Neither group could claim exception from God's wrath against sin - either based on ignorance (Gentiles) or of 'family favour' (Jews).  Those who knew the law but failed to obey it were in no better position before God than those who did not know there was a law.  The argument is summarised in Romans 3:23: "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God"

Hearing and Doing

Romans 2:12-13

The Jewish part of the church in Rome were proud that they had been favoured by God: He had given His law to them.  They looked down on the Gentiles, who did not know what pleased God (Romans 2:1-4).  So, Paul brings them back to reality.  It is not enough to have received the law or even to have memorised it - if they did not obey it completely.

God's Law in our Hearts

Romans 2:14-16

How do people know what pleases God?  The Jews said that they had been given God's law through Moses.  But what about people who lived before Moses like Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob?  Paul explains that they and all the Gentiles - indeed everybody - have been given an inbuilt understanding of right and wrong. We call it our conscience (Acts 24:16).

Hypocritical Teaching

Romans 2:17-21a

Religious people take pride in knowing about their faith, but people of true faith act on what they know.  Jewish-background believers in the Christian church in Rome were proud of their knowledge of God's Law.  They were confident to tell others what was right and what was wrong.  

Talking Big without Walking Right

Romans 2:21b-24

Preaching is dangerous; most of all for the preachers.  There is a moral and spiritual expectation that what they say is what they do (James 3:1-2).  

By asking these four searching questions, Paul affirms Jesus' Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:21-22, Matthew 5:27-28).  Pleasing God is not just about actions but attitudes as well, even the hidden things of the heart.  Jewish-background believers, who boasted about their Bible knowledge, despised the Gentile Christians.  But they should have been ashamed: even the unbelievers knew their lifestyles were inconsistent.