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Waggoner on Romans

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    God’s Revelation to Man

    November 14, 1895

    Let us not the student forget that it is from the very words of the Bible that one is to learn. All the real help that any teacher can be to any one in the study of the Bible is to show him how to fix his mind more clearly upon the exact words of the sacred text. Therefore, first of all, read the text over many times. Do not do this hastily, but carefully, paying particular attention to every statement. Do not waste one moment in speculating as to the possible meaning of the text. There is nothing worse than guessing the meaning of a text of Scripture, unless it is the acceptance of somebody else’s guess. Nobody can know any more of the Bible than the Bible itself tells; and the Bible is just as ready to tell its story to one person as to another.WOR 21.1

    Question the text closely. Probe it again and again, always in a reverent, prayerful spirit, to make it reveal itself. Do not be discouraged if you do not at once see all that there is in the text. Remember that it is the word of God, and that it is infinite in its depth, and that you can never exhaust it. When you come across a difficult statement, go back and consider it in connection with what precedes. Do not think that you can ever get at the full meaning of any text apart from its connection. By constant application to the words of the text, in order to be sure that you know exactly what it says, you will soon have them constantly in your mind; and it is then that you will begin to reap some of the rich fruits of Bible study; for at unexpected times new light will flash from them, and through them from other scriptures as you read.WOR 21.2

    Our last lesson covered verses 16, 17, which contain the statement of what the Gospel is, and what it reveals to men. The remaining portion of the chapter may be summarized thus:-WOR 21.3

    The Justice of Judgment. Romans 1:18-20

    “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath showed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his external power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.”WOR 21.4

    How Men Lost Knowledge. Romans 1:21-23

    “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.”WOR 22.1

    Result of Ignoring God. Romans 1:24-32

    “Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves; who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections; for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature; and likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one towards another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful; who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.”WOR 22.2

    Questioning the Text

    From what place is the wrath of God revealed?WOR 22.3

    “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven.”WOR 22.4

    Against what is the wrath of God revealed?WOR 22.5

    “Against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.”WOR 22.6

    What is done to the truth by ungodly men?WOR 22.7

    “Who hold down the truth in unrighteousness.” Revised Version.WOR 22.8

    What is the justice of the revelation of God’s wrath against all ungodliness of men?WOR 22.9

    “Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them.”WOR 22.10

    How is it that the knowledge of God is manifest in them?WOR 22.11

    “For God hath showed it unto them.”WOR 22.12

    Since what time have the invisible things of God been seen?WOR 22.13

    “Since the creation of the world.” Revised Version.WOR 22.14

    What are these invisible things?WOR 22.15

    “His everlasting power and divinity.” Revised Version.WOR 22.16

    By what are the everlasting power and divinity of God made known?WOR 22.17

    “Being perceived through the things that are made.” Revised Version.WOR 22.18

    What, then, is the condition of all who sin?WOR 22.19

    “They are without excuse.”WOR 22.20

    When they knew God, wherein did they fail?WOR 22.21

    “When they knew God, they glorified him not as God.”WOR 22.22

    In what respect did they fail to glorify him?WOR 22.23

    “Neither were thankful.”WOR 22.24

    What caused their ingratitude?WOR 22.25

    They “became vain in their imaginations.”WOR 22.26

    What was the result of their vain imaginings?WOR 22.27

    “Their foolish heart was darkened.”WOR 22.28

    In what sad condition were they?WOR 23.1

    “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.”WOR 23.2

    What did they then do?WOR 23.3

    “Changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.”WOR 23.4

    To what were they left as a consequence?WOR 23.5

    “Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, through the lusts of their own hearts.”WOR 23.6

    How did they pervert the truth?WOR 23.7

    They “changed the truth of God into a lie,” “exchanged the truth of God for a lie,” Revised Version.WOR 23.8

    What false worship did they introduce?WOR 23.9

    They “worshiped and served the creature more [rather] than the Creator.”WOR 23.10

    What was the result of this self-exaltation and creature worship?WOR 23.11

    “For this cause God gave them up to vile affections.”WOR 23.12

    What was the result of their refusing to have God in their knowledge?WOR 23.13

    “God gave them over to a reprobate mind,” or “a mind void of judgment.”WOR 23.14

    With what were they therefore necessarily filled?WOR 23.15

    Being filled with all unrighteousness,” etc.WOR 23.16

    All Unrighteousness Condemned.-The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. “All unrighteousness is sin.” 1 John 5:17. “But sin is not imputed when there is no law.” Romans 5:13. Therefore enough of the law of God is known in all the world to deprive all people of any excuse for sin. The statement in this verse is equal to that in the next chapter, that “there is no respect of persons with God.” His wrath is manifested against all unrighteousness. No person in the world is so great that he can sin with impunity, and no person is so insignificant that his sin will be overlooked. There is strict impartiality with God. He “without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work.” 1 Peter 1:17.WOR 23.17

    Restraining the Truth.-The statement is that men “hold down the truth in unrighteousness.” Some people have superficially read Romans 1:18 as though it said that men may possess the truth while they themselves are unrighteous. It does not say so. Sufficient evidence that such a thing is not meant is found in the fact that the apostle is speaking in this chapter especially of those who did not possess the truth, but had exchanged it for a lie. Although they had lost all knowledge of the truth, they were in condemnation for their sin.WOR 23.18

    The statement is that people restrain the truth by unrighteousness. We might note the fact that when Jesus went into his own country “he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.” Matthew 13:58. But the apostle in the text before us means much more than this. He means, as the context plainly shows, that people by their perverseness restrain the working of the truth of God in their own souls. But for their resistance of the truth, it would sanctify them. And herein is seen theWOR 23.19

    Righteousness of God’s Wrath.-The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, and justly, too, “because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shown it unto them.” Note particularly the statement that that which may be know of God “is manifest in them.” Although in the common version the margin gives “to them” as an alternative reading, the Greek gives no warrant for any such rendering. No matter how blindly men may sin, the fact remains that they are sinning against great light, “because that which may be known of God is manifest in them.” With such knowledge not only before their eyes, but actually within them, it is easy to see the justice of God’s wrath against all sin, no matter in whom it is found. Even though it should not be perfectly clear to us how the knowledge of God is really placed in every man, we may accept the apostle’s statement of the fact. In the wonderful description of the foolishness of idolatry, given in Isaiah, we are told that the man who makes an idol lies against the truth which he himself possesses. “He feedeth on ashes; a deceived heart hath turned him aside, that he can not deliver his soul, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand?” Isaiah 44:20.WOR 23.20

    Seeing the Invisible.-It is said of Moses that “he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.” Hebrews 11:27. This was not a privilege peculiar to Moses. Every other man may do the same thing. How? Because the “invisible things of him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made.” There has not been a time since the world was created when all men did not have the knowledge of God within their grasp.WOR 24.1

    “Lord, how thy wonders are displayed
    Where’er I turn my eye!
    If I survey the ground I tread,
    Or gaze upon the sky.
    WOR 24.2

    “There’s not a plant or flower below
    But makes thy glories known.”
    WOR 24.3

    Eternal Power and Divinity.-The invisible things of God that are known by the things that are made are his everlasting power and divinity. “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork.” Psalm 19:1. Jesus Christ is “the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:24. “For in him were all things created, in the heavens and upon the earth, things visible and things invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things have been created through him, and unto him; and he is before all things, and in him all things consist.” Colossians 1:16, 17. “He spake, and it was.” Psalm 33:9. He is “the firstborn of all creation.” Colossians 1:15. He is the source, or beginning, of the creation of God. Revelation 3:14. That is to say, all creation springs from Christ Jesus, who is the power of God. He spoke the worlds into existence from his own being. Therefore the external power and divinity of God are impressed upon everything that has been made. We can not open our eyes, we can not even feel the breeze upon our face, without having a clear revelation to us of the power of God.WOR 24.4

    “We Are His Offspring.” -When Paul upon Mars’ Hill rebuked the Athenians for their idolatry he said that God is not far from every one of us, “for in him we live, and move, and have our being.” The men to whom he was speaking were heathen, yet it was just as true of them as it is of us. Then he quoted one of their own poets, who had said, “For we are also his offspring,” and placed upon it the stamp of truth, by saying, “Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device.” Acts 17:27-29. Every movement of men, and every breath, is the working of the external power of God. Thus the eternal power and divinity of God are manifest to every man. Not that man is in any sense divine, or that he has any power in himself. Quite the contrary. Man is like the grass. “Every man at his best state is altogether vanity.” Psalm 39:5. The fact that man is nothing in himself, and even “less than nothing, and vanity,” is evidence of the power of God manifested in him.WOR 24.5

    God’s Power in the Grass.-Look at the tiny blade of grass just pushing its way through the hard ground to the sunlight. It is a very frail thing. Pull it up, and you will see that it has not power to stand alone. Even scrape the soil away from it as it stands in the earth, and it will at once lose its upright position. It depends upon the soil to hold it up, and yet it is pushing its way to the surface through that very hard soil. Dissect it as carefully as you please, and you will find nothing to indicate the possession of power. Rub it between your fingers, and you will see that there is scarcely any substance to it. It is about as frail a thing as there is in nature, and yet it will often remove quite large stones that are in the way of its growth. Whence comes this power? It is not inherent in the grass, but is nothing less than the power of the life of God, working according to his word, which in the beginning said, “Let the earth bring forth grass.”WOR 24.6

    The Gospel in Creation.-We have seen that in every created thing the power of God is manifested. And we also learned from the scripture studied last week that the gospel is “the power of God unto salvation.” God’s power is ever the same, for the text before us speaks of “his eternal power.” The power, therefore, which is manifested in the things which God has made is the same power that works in the hearts of men to save them from sin and death. Therefore we may be assured that God has constituted every portion of his universe a preacher of the Gospel. So then men may not only know the fact of God’s existence from the things which he has made, but they may know his eternal power to save them. The twentieth verse of the first chapter of Romans is an expansion of the sixteenth. It tells us how we may know the power of the Gospel.WOR 25.1

    The Stars as Preachers.-“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard [or, “without these their voice is heard”]. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.” Psalm 19:1-4. Now read Romans 10:13-18: “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? and how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the Gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! But they have not all obeyed the Gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. But I say, Have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world.”WOR 25.2

    In this text all the objections which men raise against the punishment of the heathen are answered. As stated in the first chapter, they are without excuse. The gospel has been made known to every creature under heaven. It is admitted that men can not call on one in whom they have not believed, and that they can not believe in one of whom they have not heard, and that they can not hear without a preacher. And that which they ought to hear, and which they have not obeyed, is the gospel. Having stated this, the apostle asks, “Have they not heard?” and at once answers his own question by repeating the words of the nineteenth psalm, “Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world.” Thus we learn that the speech which the heavens utter from day unto day is the Gospel; and the knowledge which they show from night unto night is the knowledge of God.WOR 25.3

    The Heavens Reveal Righteousness.-With the knowledge that that which the heavens declare is the Gospel of Christ, which is the power of God unto salvation, we can easily follow the nineteenth psalm through. It seems to the casual reader that there is a break in the continuity of this psalm. From talking about the heavens, the writer suddenly begins to speak of the perfection of the law of God, and its converting power. “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.” Verse 7. But there is no break at all. The law of God is the righteousness of God, and the gospel reveals the righteousness of God, and the heavens declare the Gospel; therefore it follows that the heavens reveal the righteousness of God. “The heavens declare his righteousness, and all the people see his glory.” Psalm 97:6. The glory of God is his goodness, because we are told that it is through sin that men come short of his glory. Romans 3:23. Therefore we may know that whoever looks upon the heavens with reverence, seeing in them the power of the Creator, and will yield himself to that power, will be led to the saving righteousness of God. Even the sun, moon, and stars, whose light is but a part of the glory of the Lord, will shine that glory into his soul.WOR 25.4

    Without Excuse.-How evident it is, therefore, that men are without excuse for their idolatrous practices. When the true God reveals himself in everything, and with his power makes known his love, what excuse can men have for not knowing and worshipping him? But is it true that God makes known his love to all men? Yes, it is just as true as that he makes himself known, for “God is love.” Whoever knows the Lord must know his love. This being the case with regard to the heathen, how utterly without excuse are people who live in lands where the Gospel is preached with an audible voice from his written word.WOR 26.1

    The Cause of Idolatry.-How is it that if God has so clearly revealed himself and his truth, there are so many who are in utter ignorance of him? The answer is given, “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful.” There is one thing which God has given as the seal and sign of his divinity, and that is the Sabbath. Speaking of men, he says, “Moreover also I gave them my Sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctify them.” Ezekiel 20:12. This is in keeping with what we have learned in Romans; for our text tells us that God’s power and divinity are perceived by thoughtful people through the things that he has made; and the Sabbath is the great memorial of creation. “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work; but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God; in it thou shalt not do any work.... for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day; wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.” Exodus 20:8-11. If people had always kept the Sabbath as it was given, there would never have been any idolatry; for the Sabbath reveals the power of the word of the Lord to create and to work righteousness.WOR 26.2

    Vain Imaginations.-Men became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Gibbon says of the speculations of the ancient philosophers that “their reason had often been guided by their imagination, and their imagination had been prompted by their vanity.” The course of their fall was the same as that of the angel who became Satan. “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High.” Isaiah 14:12-14. What was the cause of this self-exaltation and fall? “Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness.” Ezekiel 27:17. Dependent entirely upon God for all the wisdom and glory that he had, he did not glorify God, but assumed that all his talents sprang from himself; and so, as he disconnected himself in his pride from the Source of light, he became the prince of darkness. Even thus it was with man.WOR 26.3

    Changing the Truth into a Lie.-“There is no power but of God.” In nature we see the manifestation of mighty power, but it is the working of God. All the different forms of force which philosophers name, and which they declare to be inherent in matter, are but the working of the life of God in the things that he has made. Christ is “before all things, and by him all things consist,” or hold together. Colossians 1:17. Cohesion therefore is but the direct power of the life of Christ. Gravitation also is the same power, as we read of the heavenly bodies, “for that he is strong in power; not one faileth.” Isaiah 40:26. But men looked upon all the operations of nature, and, instead of seeing the power of the one supreme God in them, they attributed divinity to the things themselves. So, as they looked upon themselves; and saw what great things they could achieve, instead of honoring God as the giver and upholder of all things, the One in whom they lived and moved and had their being, they assumed that they themselves were by nature divine. Thus they changed the truth of God into a lie. The truth is that the life and power of God are manifested in everything that he has made; the lie is that the force which is manifest in all things is inherent in the things themselves. So men put the creature in the place of the Creator.WOR 27.1

    Looking Within.-Marcus Aurelius, who is accounted the best of the heathen philosophers, said: “Look within. Within is the fountain of good, and it will ever bubble up, if thou wilt ever dig.” That expresses the spirit of all heathenism. Self was the supreme thing. But that spirit is not peculiar to what is know as heathenism, for it is very common in these days; nevertheless, it is nothing but the spirit of heathenism. It is a part of the worship of the creature instead of the Creator. It is but natural that they should put themselves in his place; and when they do that, it is a necessary consequence that they look to themselves, and not to God, for goodness. When men look within, what is the only thing that they can see? “Evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness.” Mark 6:21, 22. Even the apostle Paul said, “I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing.” Romans 7:18. Now, when a man looks at all this evil which is in him by nature, and thinks that it is good, and that he can get good out of himself, the result can be plainly seen: the vilest wickedness must be the result. He virtually says, “Evil, be thou my good.”WOR 27.2

    The Wisdom of this World.-“The world by wisdom knew not God.” Keenness of intellect is not faith, nor is it a substitute for faith. A man may be a brilliant scholar, and still be the basest of men. Several years ago a man charged with half a score or more brutal murders was hanged, and yet he was a scholar and a scientist, and had held a high position in society. Learning is not Christianity, although a Christian may be a learned man. Modern inventions will never save men from perdition. Some modern philosopher has said that “idolatry can not live by the side of the highest art and culture that the world has ever known.” But at the same time men were sunk in such wickedness as referred to by the apostle in the last part of the first chapter of Romans. Even the reputed wise men were such as are there described. It was the natural result of their looking at themselves for righteousness.WOR 27.3

    In the Last Days.-Read the last verses of the first chapter of Romans if you wish to have a picture of the world in the last days. The one who believes in a millennium of peace and righteousness before the coming of the Lord will doubtless be shocked; but he needs to be. Read that list of sins carefully, and then see how exactly it tallies with the following: “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lover of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.” 2 Timothy 3:1-5. This all springs from self, the very source of the evil with which Paul charged the heathen. Those things are the works of the flesh. See Galatians 5:19-21. They are the natural result of trusting in self. In spite of the declaration of the apostle, there are very few who will believe that this state of things will ever be general, and especially among those who profess godliness. But the seed which produces such a crop is already sown broadcast. The Papacy, “that man of sin,” “the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshiped,” is the strongest force in professed Christendom, and its power is daily increasing. And how is it increasing? Not so much by the direct accessions as by the blind acceptance of its principles by professed Protestants. It has placed itself above God in thinking to change his law. Daniel 7:25. It boldly adopted the heathen sun festival day, Sunday, in the place of the Sabbath of the Lord, the memorial of creation, and defiantly points to it as its badge of authority. And the majority of Protestants follow in its train, accepting a custom which stands for the exaltation of man above God, the symbol of justification by works instead of by faith. When professed Christians cling to a human ordinance in spite of the express command of the Lord, and support their custom by appeals to the Fathers, men who were learned in the philosophy of heathenism, the road to any evil which their hearts may choose is but a down grade. “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.”WOR 28.1

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