The Sinner’s Summary – Romans 1:18-32

 
Banff National Park, in the province of Alberta, is one of my favorite places. In driving from Post Falls, to Calgary, the southern route is a little shorter, but I prefer the road that passes north through Banff. Not only are the mountains and rivers spectacular, but so are the animals. In the nearly 60 years that I have been driving through there and visiting there… I’ve seen moose, elk, wolves and coyotes, and even deer that let you pet them. I’ve seen multitudes of bighorn sheep, mountain goats, and eagles. I’ve seen grizzly bears and black bears, and even watched my dad chase one away from camp. Banff is simply a wonderful place. But the abundance of apparently friendly, wild animals can be a bit misleading. Quite a few years ago my family and I stopped across the road from a couple of bears. A man drove up right next to those bears in a flashy sports car and rolled down his window. As he leaned over to pick up some food to hand to the closest bruin to him – Something which is illegal and can land a person in jail, if not in the mortuary – As this man this man took his eyes off the bears and reached for some bread or food, one of those bears almost came right through the passenger’s window into the car. All those animals I just mentioned may be cute and apparently friendly, but everyone of them are wild. There are many people who are hurt by them every year, even by the deer and sheep. And anyone with just a little common sense should know that bears are bears and therefore dangerous.

And the same is true with sin. Not only does common sense tell us that sin is deadly, but God has been declaring that since before the first sin was ever committed. “Adam, in the day that thou sinnest against me, thou shalt surely die.” Yet, since time immemorial sinners been pleading ignorance – not only before, but even after they have been burned by those sins. Parents who sip beer and wine now and then are shocked when their kids are sent home from school drunk. The guy with AIDs sobs into his beer, that he didn’t think that it could happen to him. And the father in tears says that he didn’t know the rifle was still loaded.

But “I didn’t know” will be no consolation at the Great White Throne, where the Lord Jesus will sit in judgment. That is the great theme of this chapter – “I didn’t know” is actually a slight prevarication. The Bible says that sinners instinctively know a great many things about God, and they know the basic principles of sin its results. But this is one of those truths, which ungodly and unrighteous men have been holding down, stifling, suppressing and imprisoning. This afternoon, let’s use the natural divisions of the last verse of this chapter to analyze the whole section.

The average sinner knows the judgment of God, but it’s a truth denied.

Here is one of the strange paradox that we find in God’s Word. People can know about the judgment of God and then again not really know about it. I can’t tell you the number of people who have tried to quiet me by telling me that they wouldn’t mind going to Hell. They say that all of their friends will be there. And to their warped minds, they think that Hell will be the place where all the fun is. Yes, they will be sent there because they are sinners and not saints, but that is what they want. Many people smilingly admit to being sinners, but they don’t really know what they are saying. And people vaguely acknowledge that there is punishment for sin, but somehow the impact of that fact misses them entirely.

But even then, there is a lack of peacefulness about it. Man has a conscience whether he likes the idea or not. And it seems that, like Truth itself, we have to work very hard to keep that conscience at bay. As a result, even religious people have a morbid fear of death. If life ends at the grave, or always opens into the white-lights of Heaven, then someone needs to explain to me why there is such a dread of death angel. Why did the nurse of dying Voltaire declare: “For all the wealth of Europe, I will never stay in the room of another dying infidel.” Why was atheist Voltaire in such terror? Because all men, instinctively have a knowledge of the judgment of God. “Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.” This can be seen in the judgment of world in the days of Noah. It can be seen in the multiplied millions of blood sacrifices through the centuries and around the world. It can be seen in the death of Ananias, and Achan, and Korah, and Herod – eaten up by worms. And it is hinted at in constant barrage of news-casts. In 1692 one of the world’s most wicked cities was cast into the sea. Just at the turn of the last century, the small, but wretched, mining town of Frank, Alberta, on the southern route to Calgary, was buried by a landslide. In 1556, 800,000 people perished during an earthquake in China. On March 27, 1964 hundreds were kill in Alaska by another quake. In nature we can quickly see hints – small hints – of the judgment of God. Furthermore, humanity has instinctively reflected the justice of God by creating bundles of laws that often parallel the laws of God.

The sinner knows of the existence of God and of the judgment of God, although seldom does he understand its extent and degree of that divine judgment. Hell is one of the most misunderstood doctrines in the Bible. But it is a wilfully misunderstood doctrine – a truth held in unrighteousness. People are taught that punishment means nothing more than a slap on the wrist and bed without supper. Few picture Hell and eternal torment in unquenchable flames and pain. Few care to acknowledge the clear statements of the Word of God. Yet there it is, in all of its horrific detail. “Where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.” It is eternal torment, where one drop of water might cool a tongue.

The average sinner also knows that sinners are worthy of death.

In this case, too, he doesn’t understand the significance of “death” – another of the truths of God which man likes to imprison and keep from the light of day.

For example, why is mankind so opposed to the death penalty? The other day, another American murderer was executed. There was an article in the paper about the furor that his death caused. It was called “barbaric,” “sick,” and “sinister” – “a cruel violation of human rights.” But the man in question certainly didn’t think much of the human rights of the people that he killed. Clearly, the Bible teaches the practice of execution for the punishment of certain sins. God practices it and expects us to practice it as well. The Lord commands us to carry and defend His holiness. “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed, for in the image of God made he man.” That is not the law of Moses, but the law of God given a thousand years before Moses. Capital punishment was instituted to remind man of the ultimate death penalty – the eternal death penalty. “The wages of sin is death” – “the soul that sinneth it shall die.” Man was created in the image of God, but this is one of those truths that he wants to incarcerate. I think that man’s hatred of the death penalty is due in part to the fact that he knows it is right. As I have often said, hatred of death penalty is just another form of rebellion against God. They “changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. 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.”

Ironically, what kind of animals does the average idolater prefer to worship? First there is himself, the most deadly of all the creatures on this planet. And then, along with volcanos, and other dangerous natural phenomena, there are dozens of some of the most dangerous animal creatures. Easter notwithstanding, humans don’t usually worship bunnies, deer, canaries and doves. They prefer crocodiles, cobras, scorpions and other killers. To many people these false gods need to be placated and pacified. Yes, even our choice of fallen god’s points to the reality of punishment for sin.

So deep in our hearts, we all know that we are sinners. And what is more, we fear death, intuitively knowing that it is the result of sin. James 1:15 – “Then when lust hath conceived it bringeth forth sin; and sin, when it is finished bringeth forth death.” Ezekiel 18:4 – “Behold all souls are mine, so as the soul of the Father, so also the soul of the son, the soul that sinneth it shall die.” Obviously, physical death is not the end of death, but this too is a buried truth.

But the average man, knowing these things continues to sin anyway

How much proof is there of the dangers of narcotics? Even the legal ones. Overwhelming! But does that proof stop it’s use? And what are the statistics on drinking drivers? So why doesn’t it curtail alcohol? What are the dangers of base-jumping off tall urban buildings? Plenty. But, like sailing over Niagra in a barrel, every once in a while some fool will try it.

What is the likelihood that someone can slip through the cracks and escape the judgment of God? Man has a lust for the dangerous – look at the foolish things we do. But only a fool gambles against a sure thing. And that – “fool” – is exactly what the Bible calls a person who denies God – a fool.

Hundreds of people in this Spokane River valley believe the Bible in part, but they want to test its accuracy. It is good to prove the promises of God, when we know that to do so mean God’s blessing. For example, God has promised to supply our needs – go ahead the put Him to the test. But, thank you very much, there are some promises I have no desire to test. The fact that God hates sin and promises to pay its wages is already well proven. When the earth opened up and swallow rebellious Korah – we should believe. When the face of the high priest turned leprously white – we should take note. When before the glare of the Apostles, men and women fell dead – we should accept. For us to attempt the same sins and expect different results is utter foolishness. Water plus heat raised to the correct temperature makes steam. Likewise, sin exposed to the righteousness of God produces divine wrath. It is a natural law never to be broken, a law of spiritual physics.

So even though most sinners say that they know little about God, they do know the results of sin. Not only is the Bible explicit, but life is explicit as well. Look at Adam in the garden, and the results of his sin. Look at David and Bathsheba. Study Peter and his denial of Christ. These are not fairy tales; they are not the fables of Aesop. Sinner beware: “be sure your sin will find you out.”

But the average sinner goes one step farther that just sin.

The average sinner particularly enjoy others who sin as he does.

“Birds of a feather flock together.” Why does the saint love the services of his church? Why does his heart ache when he’s unable to attend? Because where his treasure is, there his heart is also. And why are people at the tavern so different and yet so similar? We can learn a lot about ourselves by watching the people with whom we fellowship.

A sinner is a person who wants to be with fellow sinners. There is a strength in numbers, and often pleasure in those numbers, too. It is difficult, but not impossible, for an immoral person to be immoral alone. Seldom do you see a drunk person by himself, unless it’s pure addiction. Rarely does a dancer, dance alone. A thief is eventually compelled by his own wicked heart either to bray or confess. But it’s almost always to his own kind. Sinners delight in their own breed. “Woe unto you scribes and pharisees, hypocrites, for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.”

The tragedy is that unrepentant sinners shall have their request for all eternity. It is most upsetting to hear someone say that they want to bo to Hell. How pitiable; how foolish, how stupid. Hell shall be no gay time, no enjoyment of one’s friends. The imprisoned truth describes Hell as darkness, with only the ear-piercing screams of the sinner’s one-time acquaintances.

Everyone of us are pictured in these verses to some degree and at some period in our lives. All mankind is running from God and the knowledge of God. Yet still – the gospel of Christ is “the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth.” Praise the Lord that God is pursuing some of those sinners with the solution to their sins.