Comments on Romans 1:18-4:25
The Romans letter enters its next phase from verses 1:18 to 4:25. Paul, in true rabbinic-legal style, will first present his case (1:18-3:20) that both Jews and gentiles will be judged by God and that both are saved by faith and not their own works. It should be noted that Paul uses certain literary techniques as well as mystical language, that if not properly understood, can cause the casual reader to come to an improper understanding of the message Paul was conveying. These will be discussed throughout this study.
In 3:21-26, Paul explains that God's righteousness is being revealed now as in the past. If it wasn't revealed in the past (prior to Yeshua and the gospel events) there could not be authentic revelation now in the preaching of the Gospel. Paul makes the additional point in 3:27-31 that boasting is ruled out, drawing out what is inferred in the previous verses. In 4:1-25, Paul confirms what he says about boasting, by giving the supreme example of Abraham, whom he shows also had no right to boast.
Additionally, from 2:17 to 4:25, Paul explains the privelege of the Jew - the Torah. His point in doing this however, is to show that the Torah bears witness to the election of Israel AND God's intention to extend His faithfulness to the nations who place their faith in the God of Israel.
This is the first of three consecutive sections within chapters 1 and 2, where Paul "speaks to" a supposed audience. (Not necessarily someone present or in partucular.) Such a literary technique is called an apostrophe. From 1:18 to 1:32, Paul is "speaking to" the gentile world in general - not the gentiles in the congregation - although the message is meant for them to understand. He will follow this up with a second apostrophe from 2:1-2:16, and a third, to the Jewish world, beginning in 2:17.
1:18a against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of menNo one can judge righteously, as the gospel judges all men as idolatrous.
1:18b who hold the truth in unrighteousness
Paul goes on in the following verses (1:19-32) to show the result of man rejecting the truth of God. Because of this, God will at some point, give up on them and allow the "fullness of their sin" to come to fruition.
The verse is reminiscent of a prophecy made by Paul in one of his other letters:
1:19 is manifest in them
Paul indicated that gentiles have a knowledge of God, without the written Torah through creation. He uses the same thought "in defense of some gentiles," in Romans 2:14-15, where he says, "Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts."
1:19 that which may be known of God ... the invisible
things of him
It seems a contradiction that an invisible God can show Himself to us, or that we can understand and define anything about a God who is infinite and undefineable. Yet Paul indicates that God has somehow revealed aspects of Himself to us within creation. This is a very deep area of study and we deal with this in our advanced-level Revelation course. We will touch on it only lightly in this Romans study.
The term "godhead" appears a total of two other times in the King James version. One of these is from Luke's account of Paul's discussion with the Greeks at Mars Hill:
The other occasion of the word "Godhead" is also from Paul:
In the account from Acts, Paul is addressing the Greeks who have an altar dedicated to "the unknown god." Paul establishes this as the God who created everything. In creation we see various characteristics of this "unknowable" God, which is away the gentile world can know of Him. These characteristics (or emanations) of the invisible, infinite God, are called "the Godhead" (in the King James and other English language "New Testaments"). The gentile world, rather than seeing these various characteristics as being from the same God, attributed them to different gods (as seen in Greek and Roman culture) - this is often called paganism.
NOTE: Although Yeshua is "Elohim in the flesh," the Hebrew concept of the "godhead" is not the same as the Christian idea of the "Trinity," which evolved long after the time of Paul and Yeshua. This is explained in detail in our Revelation study.
Paul tells the Greeks that God put us on the earth to seek Him, and that He is not far from us, as we are made in His image. Therefore, he states, man should not think that God is some idol made of wood or gold. He goes on to say that God was more "lenient" of this error in times past, but that there is less of an excuse now, (very much since the written Torah was around for 1300 years by this time.) God wishes all men to repent as judgment is coming through Yeshua, whom He resurrected from the dead (as proof).
In the Colossians letter, Paul speaks of God, the Father and the Messiah, as if speaking of three entities. In a sense he is, as here, "God" represents the invisible God, who created everything. Fundamental to Paul's Judaism is the truth that "God is One." The Father and the Messiah are emanations of this One God that we can comprehend and relate to. These emanations are part of "the godhead." The Messiah, Paul writes, contains all the "fullness of the Godhead." The Hebrew mystical writings of the Zohar have a lot to say on this subject. This is an advanced subject covered in our Revelation study.
As mentioned, this is a very complex area of Hebrew Bible study, one that has been lost to followers of the Messiah since the early centuries and is only recently returning thanks to the influx of Torah scholars into the body of Messiah over the past 30 years or so. The point Paul is making in the balance of Romans chapter 1, is that these emanations/characterstics of God are not hidden from the gentile world. They exist in our world as a means given by God, for us to become conformed to His image and grow in an intimate relationship with Him. Yeshua is the perfect example for us as He contains all the characteristics within Him.
Paul outlines the process of idolatry that man has followed:
Sexual sin is especially repugnant to God, as Paul says:
The book of Revelation shows that even knowing that he is face to face with the wrath of God and the final end is in sight, man will not repent. (And this is with an additional 1900+ years of Yeshua and Torah to witness to them):
1:32 are worthy of death
The punishment for such sin will come - if not now, then in the world to come. (i.e. Psalm 37).
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