Trinity 2


We Believe



Sola Scriptura
Scripture Alone
Sola Gratia
Grace Alone
Sola Fide
Faith Alone


In Nomine Iesu

Pastor Thomas L. Rank
Trinity 2
June 5, 2005

Text: Romans 1:18-25
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man – and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. 24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.


Dear fellow redeemed in Christ,

Over the course of the next weeks, we will be hearing from the words of St. Paul's letter to the church at Rome. This letter, in its sixteen chapters, covers major and necessary teachings of God's Word: sin, law, grace, faith, righteousness, flesh, spirit, and so on. These teachings are foundational to the true knowledge of God and of the great work of salvation accomplished by Jesus Christ. Martin Luther thought so highly of this book that he wrote:

This epistle is really the chief part of the New Testament, and is truly the purest gospel. It is worthy not only that every Christian should know it word for word, by heart, but also that he should occupy himself with it every day, as the daily bread of the soul. We can never read it or ponder over it too much; for the more we deal with it, the more precious it becomes and the better it tastes (LW 35, 365).

However, when we begin with the first few chapters, we find that the taste of this epistle may be rather bitter. That bitterness is due to the fact that Paul begins this epistle by writing directly about sin and the law of God. And the law, because it consistently shows us our sin, is painful to us, bitter; and yet so necessary. Why necessary? Because it shows us the twistedness of our human thoughts, and how we must receive from God, instead of trying to impress Him with our works.

God's anger is deserved by all. Ungodliness and unrighteousness call down the wrath of God. And especially here in this beginning of Romans, the ungodliness is the rejection of the true God. In other words, this is a First Commandment issue: "You shall have no other gods." "We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things."

The breaking of this first and greatest commandment is at the very heart of all sin. It doesn't matter how sincere you are, it doesn't matter how upright you are, it doesn't matter how tolerant and kind you are. What matters is this: who is your God?

The history of mankind demonstrates time and time again the arrogance of man. The arrogance is found whenever we see worldly powers presume to take the place of God, to deny God, to reject God. The last century was filled with such examples. In 1917 the world first began to see what communism meant. Over the course of the next 80 years, tens of millions of people would be killed, in gulags, in mass murders, all in the name of communism. No other political movement has killed so many. Yet it was done supposedly for the masses of people. Shortly after the rise of communism, Fascism tried to catch up and surpass the death toll brought by communism. It failed to catch up, but nonetheless millions were left dead, with millions more living in shattered families and communities and towns across half the globe. Both communism and fascism despised Christianity. Both singled out Christian pastors and leaders, either to corrupt them, suppress them, or murder them. "Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man ...."

The twentieth century was not content with only the massive scale of destruction brought about by those political movements. Others were just as deadly, but without the global scale. There was genocide in China and Sudan and the Balkans. Genocide is killing people because of their race, and nothing else. The Nazis did it to the Jews. It happened in all sorts of ways in the Balkans, and in Africa. The Japanese did it to the Chinese in the 1930's.

The foolishness of mankind, the rejection of God, does not bring enlightenment nor peace nor happiness, but finally and ultimately only death.

But we must not get so caught up in these national and global problems that we neglect the personal, the individual. These words of Paul are for each person to hear and learn from. There is temptation all around to depart from the true God, to be blind to Him and His ways, to turn away and follow our own paths.

Many religions will help you do just that. The most popular are those that in one way or another replace God with yourself. In addition, St. Paul refers to God being replaced by the images of "birds and four-footed animals and creeping things." There are people today who think more highly of the life of animals than of humans. There are many more who consider the abilities of humans the ultimate source and power for good – as if we could all just try harder, think more deeply, meditate more sincerely, act more charitably, and then the world will be a better place.

No doubt it would. But what does this ignore? It ignores the truth that we are sinful. Our sin is not due to lack of trying, but to a fundamental problem: original sin. As long as we consider ourselves capable of being our own saviors we will always be falling deeper into sin. And in fact, Paul warns us of the consequences for that on-going denial of the true God: "Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever."

We will find in this book of Romans more lessons on the law of God and its judgment upon us. But even more than the law, Paul lays out for us the Gospel, the forgiveness of sins, the reason for the life and death of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Earlier in this first chapter of Romans Paul wrote, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes...."

The gospel is the very power by which God works among us, forgiving us, cleansing us of our sin, doing for us what we cannot and can never do for ourselves. It is so tragic that the turning away from God keeps us from the very help God desires to give us freely and generously. His gospel is brought to us in His word of Absolution. It is poured on our heads in Holy Baptism. It is placed in our mouths in the blessed Supper of our Lord. This is what gives salvation, the way out of sin, the promise life even in the midst of the tragedies and deaths of this world.

God grant us to worship and serve the Creator only, and no creature. For He alone is blessed forever. Amen.

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