Unbelief And Its Consequences

Romans 1: 16 – 25.

The Apostle Paul was unambiguous in his declaration on the efficacy and transformative power of the gospel (Rom 1:1-6; 16-17). In this segment of his Epistle to the Romans, he was addressing impenitent believers who were reaping the consequence of their estrangement to God and inevitably drawing His judgment on themselves (Rom 1:18-21). If God is to be God in the life of His people, then they are instinctively to fear Him, to acknowledge His grace and lovingkindness, and to faithfully obey Him in word and deed. Furthermore, being their Creator, it is absolutely fitting for them to submit to Him in every area of their life; for in the final analysis, “all things will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all” (1 Cor 15:28; c.f., Rom 8:9; 1 Cor 6:19-20; 1 John 3:9-10). The drift of Paul’s complaint is that the Roman believers were denying the evidence within themselves on the attributes and omnipotence of God. They knew God but did not honour Him nor were they grateful to Him, and as a result, God’s authority over their lives was restricted or totally non-existent, causing them to live in a state of rebelliousness and idolatry (Rom 1:22-25).

‘’Truth” in the New Testament is not simply something to which one gives mental assent to, as truthful doctrines or pronouncements are to be believed and acted on. The process of denying God’s sovereignty over our lives begins with our conscious efforts to suppress the truth, thereby thwarting obedience to Him (Rom 1:18). But when we do obey Him, we embrace the ‘truth’ and the authority and grace of God’s Holy Spirit empowers our grasp of spiritual reality and reinforce our moral condition (c.f., John 8:31-32; John 14:6). Although it is true that our sinning can never dethrone God or deflect Him from His purposes, the ‘truth’ does not accomplish what God intends for it in us when it is not obeyed and lived by; and in that sense, we do hinder the ‘truth,’ and this is the point that Paul is demonstrating. In fact, the Apostle goes one step further, he says, when we reject God’s authority, we descend into the darkness of idolatry through pointless speculations on truth (Rom 1:21). The Old Testament’s basis for the Yahwistic sacrificial system and God’s recurrent judgment over Israel’s and Judah’s unfaithfulness through His prophets are indicative of the consequences of sin; the outcome of ‘darkness.’ We desperately need to seek His Holy Spirit to sense the depth of our depravity against God’s holiness; to negate it is to constantly presume on His grace and forgiveness without the desirable transformation of ‘our inner man’ towards obedience.

The trajectory towards disregarding God’s authority over our lives is to trust in our own humanistic individualism, and this would undoubtedly lead towards a life where we begin to subvert our God-given conscience and faith; Paul described this as “exchanging the truth of God for a lie” – worshipping and serving the creature rather than the Creator (Rom 1:24-25). The obsequious agnostic lie articulates that we are our own self-governing masters and no one, not even God, can tell us what we ought to do with our lives! This brazen attitude goes against everything that a Christian ought to espouse: where gratitude to His saving grace permeates our every breath, as we live this life in willing service to Him in this broken world, since He has sanctified us with every spiritual blessing in Christ (Eph 1:3-14) and had sent His Holy Spirit to instruct us (John 14:16-17; John 14:26). Increasingly, a life in Christ is inescapably driven by an agape love that rises out of a heart that is totally aware that we do not deserve anything except being judged by God’s righteousness and that our full acceptance in Christ is not based on our having to prove our worthiness to anyone (c.f., Luke 17:11-19). Salvation, therefore, cannot be taken lightly as it costs our God His life. Hence, assiduously obeying Him is perennially the challenging part of life in the here and now for us all (1 Sam 15:22-23; Jer 7:21-23). May God be merciful to us!