Category Archives: Romans

A study of Romans: The Righteousness of God #3 — The Rational Sinner: God’s Anger at Willful Sin – Romans 1:18-32

Blog Post - Evangelical Syncretism: Seeker vs. Sinner

Man’s greatest need is not food, clothing, or shelter. The apostle Paul would say that man’s greatest need is Christ and the gospel. That is the reason he gave his life to a proclamation of the gospel of Christ.

In Romans 1:16, 17, he said, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘But the righteous man shall live by faith.’”

Every single hour someone somewhere enters an operating room and undergoes surgery at a hospital. But one is not likely to undergo surgery unless first he is convinced he needs the surgery. So it is in the spiritual realm. One may have a tremendous need, but if he does not understand the need he probably will not apply the remedy.

We will now focus upon 1:18-21, where Paul gives attention to the ‘rational’ sinner. The rational sinner reasons or rationalizes God out of his thoughts. He does not want to think about God. To think about God would be to reprove his evil deeds.

At 1:18, immediately after discussing the good news and the gospel being the power of God unto salvation, Paul turns to the wrath of God. He says, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, . . .” One response that man often makes is to reject the light that God has given.

In John 3 Jesus spoke of the light that God had shed upon man and how man rejects that light: For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world; but that the world should be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil (John 3:17-19).

God has turned on the light in this world. Man has light at his disposal so that he may seek after and find God. The problem is, as Jesus points out in John 3, men love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil. Man rejects the light God has given.

If a man makes up his mind that he wants to know God, Jesus says he will know the teaching. Somehow, some way, when the sincere seeker of truth makes his search, God will bring him into contact with truth.

The problem is that the truth convicts and convinces men that they are in need of God. It convinces men that they are in rebellion against God.

The answer to rebellion is to say no to ourselves so that we can say yes to God.

That cuts across the grain of man’s pride, for in his pride he may not want to feel any need for God. Therefore, he may not want the truth. He may reject the light God has given; he may love the darkness because his deeds are evil. Verse 18 says he “suppresses the truth in unrighteousness.” He holds down the truth.


What kind of light has God revealed to man? Romans 1 gives the answer. The apostle points out that man often rejects the light from within. God has given light within every man.

Romans 1:19 (NASB) “…because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.

God has placed within every human being a moral conscience. Man, therefore, is hopelessly religious. You and I do not decide whether to be religious or not.

A man may say, “I am not very religious.” He means that he may not participate in religious activities, per se. He is religious though. God made us incurably religious.

There is a longing within the hearts of all men for God. One may respond by saying, “I did not know that I had this longing within,” but it is there, nonetheless. A hunger which cannot be satisfied except by God exists in each man. Man tries to satisfy it in various ways.

Man knows that he is not happy, but he wants to be happy. There is a gnawing pain inside. He may feed upon pleasure; he may feed upon education; he may surround himself with wealth; he may strive to have power over other people.

What is he doing? He is seeking to satisfy that longing within. Of course, none of these can ever satisfy. Augustine said, “Thou has made us for Thyself, and we cannot rest until we rest in Thee.”

In Psalms 42:1, David said, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for Thee, O God.”

It is there. We can suppress it. We can deny it. We can ignore it. But it is there.

The rational sinner wants to put God out of his thoughts. He does not want God to control his life. He wants to do his own thing, go his own way.

The longing is there, but he is justly under the condemnation or wrath of God. He is rejecting the light that God has given, the light that says, “God is, and I am indebted to Him.”

Romans 1:18 (NASB) “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness…

Why is God angry with sin? Because people have substituted the truth about him with a fantasy of their own imagination (1:25). They have suppressed the truth God naturally reveals to everyone in order to believe anything that supports their own self-centered lifestyles.


Paul also shows that the rational sinner, in seeking to put God out of his thoughts, rejects the light of creation, or the light from without.

Verse 20 says, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen.”

The paradox can’t be missed—God’s invisible qualities are clearly seen. How? God created the world with natural processes, with cause and effect. In the same way that observing a painting leads a person to conclude that there is an artist, so to observe the tremendous creation is to conclude that there is a supreme Creator, one with eternal power and divinity (He was here first, He had the power to create, He is not human!). This is part of the truth that unsaved people are suppressing.

God is not visible to the human eye. He is invisible. But the invisible things of Him have been made manifest. How? Paul says they are clearly seen by the things that are made.

He is referring to the created world. God made a world, and this world is a testimony, a visible testimony to the invisible God.

David said in Psalms 19:1, “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and the firmament is declaring the work of His hands.”

Man, in his rationalism, can look at the world and say all this happened by accident. He says a big explosion occurred millions of years ago and the universe resulted. But in reaching that conclusion he is holding down or suppressing the truth about God.

The creative world declares the existence of God; it is evidence that God is. You and I are held responsible to accept that evidence and seek God.

The rational sinner who does not want to think about God rejects the light. He rejects the light within, his moral consciousness; he rejects the light without, the created world which proclaims the existence of God.


Of course, in our day we have additional evidence for God’s existence. God has spoken to man. His Word is revealed in the Bible. When one rejects the existence of God, he also is rejecting the light of God’s Word, the light from above.

The Bible is here. How are we to look upon it? Are we to consider it only as the product of a few feeble men who in their own human efforts wrote down this book that has no equal?

The evidence concerning the Bible, both internal evidence from the Bible itself and external evidence from outside the Bible, says the Bible is the Word of God.

You and I are called upon to accept that Word as a revelation from God. When we turn away from the Word we are rejecting the light. The rational sinner wants to put God out of his mind so he rejects the light God has given.

He overlooks that moral consciousness within; he bypasses the creative world which says God is, and he gives only a passing thought to the Bible as a revelation from God.

As a result of rejecting the light God’s wrath or judgment falls upon the rational sinner.

1:21 Although they knew God.NKJV Their denial of their own awareness of God is what left people without excuse. When Paul says that men knew God he is not describing a knowledge that could save them but a knowledge that simply recognized God’s existence. He was describing an awareness of God, that, if not suppressed would be nurtured by God.

   There are six judgments announced in Romans 1.

  1. First of all, Paul says, “Their foolish heart was darkened” (1:21). If one loves the darkness, God will allow him to walk in the darkness and never come to the light.
  2. Verse 22 gives the second judgment: “Professing themselves to be wise they became fools.” When one puts God out of his thoughts, he becomes a fool. “The fool hath said in his heart there is no God” (Psalms 14:1). One may even claim that God exists, but if he lives as though God does not, he is a fool.
  3. The third judgment of God is announced in verse 23: “And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image.”

When man rejects God, he turns to idolatry. In ancient times man built his own gods. He made temples to his gods. 21st century man in the Western world is too sophisticated to bow before a god of stone or wood. But he has his gods.

His god may be himself, it may be his job, or it may be possessions. If you reject God for possessions, God will allow you to go on in your idolatry.

  1. The fourth judgment of God is seen at verse 24: “God gave them up to . . . the lusts of their own hearts.” God will allow you to be consumed by your lusts if you want to be.
  2. In the fifth place, in verse 26, He gave them up to immorality: “For this cause God gave them up to their vile affections.” He speaks in these verses about homosexuality and condemns it as worthy of the judgment of God. We can try to make sin respectable if we want, but God calls it what it is—sin. If one is determined to go on in immorality, God will permit it.
  3. Verse 28 is the sixth judgment of God. Romans 1:28 (ESV)
    28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.  If you decide that you are going to reject God, that you are going to do as you please, God will give you up to do it. He will allow you to be consumed in your wickedness.

    DOWNWARD SPIRAL. Paul portrays the inevitable downward spiral into sin.

  • First people reject God
  • Next they make up their own ideas of what a god should be and do
  • Then they fall into sin—sexual sin, greed, hatred, envy, murder, fighting, lying, bitterness, gossip.
  • Finally they grow to hate God and encourage others to do so.

God does not cause this steady progression toward evil. Rather, when people reject him, He allows them to live as they choose.

God gives them up or commits them to experience the natural consequences of their sin.

Once caught in the downward spiral, no one can pull himself or herself out by themselves! Sinners must trust Christ alone to put them on the path of escape

Before you say there is no God, think seriously about the evidence for God’s existence.

Before you live as though God does not exist and has no claim upon your life, read carefully Romans 1, for it depicts the rational sinner, a description of many who are in the world today.


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Posted by on June 10, 2021 in Romans


A study of Romans: The Righteousness of God #2 The Power of the Good News Romans 1:16-17

A quick look at any newspaper or passing glance at a weekly news magazine reminds us that in our world most news is bad and seems to be getting worse. What is happening on a national and worldwide scale is simply the magnification of what is happening on an individual level. As personal problems, animosities, and fears increase, so do their counterparts in society at large.

Human beings are in the hold of a terrifying power that grips them at the very core of their being. Left unchecked, it pushes them to self-destruction in one form or another. That power is sin, which is always bad news.

Sin is bad news in every dimension. Among its consequences are four inevitable byproducts that guarantee misery and sorrow for a world taken captive. First, sin has selfishness at its heart. The basic element of fallen human nature is exaltation of self, the ego. When Satan fell, he was asserting his own will above God’s, five times declaring, “I will…” (Isa. 14:13-14). Man fell by the same self-will, when Adam and Eve asserted their own understanding about right and wrong above God’s clear instruction (Gen. 2:16-17; 3:1-7).

By nature man is self-centered and inclined to have his own way. He will push his selfishness as far as circumstances and the tolerance of society will allow. When self-will is unbridled, man consumes everything and everyone around him in an insatiable quest to please himself. When friends, fellow workers, or a spouse cease to provide what is wanted, they are discarded like an old pair of shoes. Much of modern western society has been so imbued with the propriety of self-esteem and self-will that virtually every desire has come to be considered a right.

The ultimate goal in many lives today is little more than perpetual self-satisfaction. Every object, every idea, every circumstance, and every person is viewed in light of what it can contribute to one’s own purposes and welfare. Lust for wealth, possessions, fame, dominance, popularity, and physical fulfillment drives people to pervert everything they possess and everyone they know. Employment has become nothing more than a necessary evil to finance one’s indulgences. As is often noted, there is constant danger of loving things and using people rather than loving people and using things. When that temptation is succumbed to, stable and faithful personal relationships become impossible. A person engulfed in self-will and self-fulfillment becomes less and less capable of loving, because as his desire to possess grows, his desire to give withers. And when he forfeits selflessness for selfishness, he forfeits the source of true joy.

Selfish greed progressively alienates a person from everyone else, including those who are closest and dearest. The end result is loneliness and despair. Everything that is craved soon yields to the law of diminishing returns, and the more one has of it the less it satisfies.

Second, sin produces guilt, another form of bad news. No matter how convincingly one tries to justify selfishness, its inevitable abuse of things and other people cannot escape generating guilt.

Like physical pain, guilt is a God-given warning that something is wrong and needs correcting. When guilt is ignored or suppressed, it continues to grow and intensify and with it come anxiety, fear, sleeplessness, and countless other spiritual and physical afflictions. Many people try to overcome those afflictions by masking them with possessions, money, alcohol, drugs, sex, travel, and psychoanalysis. They try to assuage their guilt by blaming society, parents, a deprived childhood, environment, restrictive moral codes, and even God Himself. But the irresponsible notion of blaming other persons and things only aggravates the guilt and escalates the accompanying afflictions.

Third, sin produces meaninglessness, still another form of bad news and one that is endemic to modern times. Trapped in his own selfishness, the self-indulgent person has no sense of purpose or meaning. Life becomes an endless cycle of trying to fill a void that cannot be filled. The result is futility and despair. To questions such as, “Why am I here? What is the meaning of life? What is truth?” he finds no answers in the world but the lies of Satan, who is the author of lies and prince of the present world system (cf. John 8:44; 2 Cor. 4:4). In the words of Edna St. Vincent Millay in her poem “Lament,” he can only say “Life must go on; I forget just why.” Or, like the central character in one of Jean-Paul Sartre’s novels, he may say nihilistically, “I decided to kill myself to remove at least one superfluous life.”

A fourth element in sin’s chain of bad news is hopelessness, which is the companion of meaninglessness. The consumptively selfish person forfeits hope, both for this life and for the next. Although he may deny it, he senses that even death is not the end, and for the hopeless sinner death becomes therefore the ultimate bad news.

Millions of babies are born every day into a world filled with bad news. And because of the boundless selfishness that permeates modern society, millions of other babies are not allowed to enter the world at all. That tragedy alone has made the bad news of the modern world immeasurably worse.

The tidbits of seemingly good news are often merely a brief respite from the bad, and sometimes even what appears to be good news merely masks an evil. Someone once commented cynically that peace treaties merely provide time for everyone to reload!

In his Romans letter Paul speaks of the good news in many ways, each way emphasizing a uniquely beautiful facet of one spiritual gem. He calls it the blessed good news, the good news of salvation, the good news of Jesus Christ, the good news of God’s Son, and the good news of the grace of God. The letter begins (1:1) and ends (16:25-26) with the good news.

But the essence of Paul’s letter to the Romans is that there is good news that is truly good.

The Good News was promised by God and was not a new religion made up by Paul or anyone else. It was rooted in God’s promises in the Old Testament to his people through his prophets. The gospel that Paul preached was in perfect continuity with God’s earlier words in the Scriptures to his people, Israel. Both the Jews and Gentiles in the church of Rome needed to be reminded that the gospel is an ancient message of God’s plan for his creation. This was on Paul’s mind and is a recurring theme throughout the letter.

Even though the church in Rome consisted mostly of Gentiles and former converts to the Jewish faith, Paul reminded them all that in their acceptance of the gospel they were not casting off Moses and the law in order to embrace Christ. Rather, they were discovering and responding to the outworking of God’s eternal plan. The prophets in the Old Testament announced the coming fulfillment of God’s grace in Christ. The actual fulfillment of those prophetic statements confirmed God’s involvement all along. This direct statement by Paul anticipates an important teaching that he would develop later in this letter.

Whenever we think that God’s love for us depends on our behavior or spiritual success, we put ourselves in a hopeless situation because we can never be good enough to deserve God’s love. As Paul later explains in this letter, God’s love precedes everything. All of our attempts to earn his love will fail. That’s because perfect love would require a perfect effort, clearly beyond us. It is also true that when we think of God’s love as conditional, we unwittingly transform it into something much less than love.
Conditional love is an oxymoron. God’s love is unconditional. The first delightful surprise in the gospel is that “God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8, nrsv). When you’re feeling spiritually dull or anxious, ask yourself, “Have I begun to think of God’s love as dependent on my effort?” Thank God for his unconditional, perfect love, and respond by living for him.

     Romans 1:15-17 So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. 16  For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

Paul now states the thesis of the epistle. These two verses express the theme of the book of Romans, and they contain the most life-transforming truth God has put into men’s hands. To understand and positively respond to this truth is to have one’s time and eternity completely altered. These words summarize the gospel of Jesus Christ, which Paul then proceeds to unfold and explain throughout the remainder of the epistle. For that reason, our comments here will be somewhat brief and a more detailed discussion of these themes will come later in the study.

1:16 I am not ashamed of the gospel. Verses 16 and 17 summarize the thrust of the rest of Paul’s letter and give the reason behind Paul’s missionary zeal. Paul was ready, even eager (1:15) to preach at Rome. And he was not ashamed of the gospel, even though the gospel was held in contempt by those who did not believe; even though those who preached it could face humiliation and suffering.

Paul was not intimidated by the intellect of Greece nor the power of Rome. When describing to the Corinthians the typical attitudes toward the gospel, Paul wrote, “we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,” (1 Corinthians 1:23 nrsv). Paul was not ashamed, because he knew from experience that the gospel had the power to transform lives, so he was eager to take it to as many as would listen. This verse marks the beginning of Paul’s extended explanation of the gospel. Reading, understanding, and applying the gospel faithfully can also bring us to that point of being unashamed of what God has said and done.

One reason that the exuberance of those first days of knowing Christ tends to fade is because of the reception from other believers as well as from the unbelieving world. Becoming ashamed of the gospel is an attitude young Christians often learn from those who have been believers the longest. Faint praise, condescending responses, and averted eyes all combine to give the young believer the subtle but crushing hint that enthusiastic comments about what Christ has done for him or her need to be toned down. Paul was eager to speak and unashamed of his message. It was life to him, and he knew it would be life to others. In what ways do you sometimes seem to be ashamed of the gospel? What young or recent believers need you to rejoice with them in their new faith?

Many believers in Christ want to keep their faith a secret, carefully avoiding situations where they might be identified as a Christian. They are afraid of being embarrassed. These feelings are based on real though often exaggerated possibilities. They cause us to be silent when we ought to speak. They cause us to be anonymous Christians in most parts of our life. Shame grows when we think:

  • People will openly ridicule our faith.
  • Friends might desert us if they know we are Christians.
  • Christians have a reputation as poor examples or hypocrites.
  • Our faith is something private rather than public.
  • Our success or achievement is worth more to us than having others know we are Christians.

Whatever the superficial reasons for being ashamed of the gospel, they all arise from misunderstanding or forgetting the radical, eternal, and awesome nature of God’s message and what it tells us about him.

It is said that if a circle of white chalk is traced on the floor around a goose that it will not leave the circle for fear of crossing the white mark. In a similar way, the chalk marks of criticism, ridicule, tradition, and rejection prevent many believers from leaving the security of Christian fellowship to witness to the unsaved.

The so-called health and wealth gospel that has swept through much of the church today is not offensive to the world because it offers what the world wants. But that spurious gospel does not offer the gospel of Jesus Christ. Like the false teaching of the Judaizers, it is “a different gospel,” that is, not the gospel at all but an ungodly distortion (Gal. 1:6-7). Jesus strongly condemned the motives of worldly success and comfort, and those who appeal to such motives play right into the hands of Satan.

A scribe once approached Jesus and said, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.” Knowing the man was unwilling to give up his comforts in order to be a disciple, the Lord answered, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” (Matt. 8:19-20). Shortly after that, “another of the disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father'” The phrase “bury my father” did not refer to a funeral service but was a colloquialism for awaiting the father’s death in order to receive the inheritance. Jesus therefore told the man, “Follow Me; and allow the dead to bury their own dead” (vv. 21-22).

Geoffrey Wilson wrote, “The unpopularity of a crucified Christ has prompted many to present a message which is more palatable to the unbeliever, but the removal of the offense of the cross always renders the message ineffective. An inoffensive gospel is also an inoperative gospel. Thus Christianity is wounded most in the house of its friends” (Romans: A Digest of Reformed Comment [Carlisle, Pa.: Banner of Truth, 1976], p. 24).

It is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.NIV The Greek word for power (dynamis) is the source for our words dynamite and dynamic. Dynamite was not invented by Nobel until 1867, so it is obvious that Paul did not have that specific picture in mind. Instead, the inventor of the explosive took its name from the Greek. But the parallel is instructive. The gospel can be like spiritual dynamite. Under certain circumstances it has a devastating, even destructive effect, demolishing world views and traditions—paving the way for new construction. Placed inside a stone-hard heart that is resistant to God, it can shatter the barrier. God’s power in the gospel is not only explosive; it also overcomes evil. Dynamite must be carefully handled, but it is very effective when put to its proper use. Keeping dynamite under lock and key, hidden by those who know about it, may keep it from being misused, but it also prevents the dynamite from doing what it was designed to do. The dynamite of the gospel deserves to be respectfully treated, but effectively used! Furthermore, it must never be used as a weapon, but as a constructive power.

The gospel carries with it the omnipotence of God, whose power alone is sufficient to save men from sin and give them eternal life.

People have an innate desire to be changed. They want to look better, feel better; have more money, more power, more influence. The premise of all advertising is that people want to change in some way or another, and the job of the advertiser is to convince them that his product or service will add a desired dimension to their lives. Many people want to be changed inwardly in a way that will make them feel less guilty and more content, and a host of programs, philosophies, and religions promise to meet those desires. Many man-made schemes succeed in making people feel better about themselves, but the ideas promoted have no power to remove the sin that brings the feelings of guilt and discontent. Nor can those ideas make men right with God. In fact, the more successful such approaches are from their own standpoint, the more they drive people away from God and insulate them from His salvation.

Through Jeremiah, the Lord said, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then you also can do good who are accustomed to do evil” (Jer. 13:23). It is not within man’s power to change his own nature. In rebuking the Sadducees who tried to entrap Him, Jesus said, “You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures, or the power of God” (Matt. 22:29). Only the power of God is able to overcome man’s sinful nature and impart spiritual life.

The Bible makes it clear that men cannot be spiritually changed or saved by good works, by the church, by ritual, or by any other human means. Men cannot be saved even by keeping God’s own law which was given to show men their helplessness to meet His standards in their own power. The law was not given to save men but to reveal their sin and thus to drive men to God’s saving grace.

Later in Romans, Paul declares man’s impotence and God’s power, saying, “While we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom. 5:6), and, “What the law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin” (8:3). Affirming the same basic truth in different words, Peter wrote believers in Asia Minor: “You have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and abiding word of God” (1 Pet. 1:23).

Paul reminded the church at Corinth that “the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18), and “we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block, and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (vv. 23-25). What to the world seems to be utter absurdity is in fact the power by which God transforms men from the realm of darkness to the realm of light, and delivers them from the power of death and gives them the right to be called the children of God (John 1:12).

Ancient pagans mocked Christianity not only because the idea of substitutionary atonement seemed ridiculous in itself but also because their mythical gods were apathetic, detached, and remote—totally indifferent to the welfare of men. The idea of a caring, redeeming, self-sacrificing God was beyond their comprehension. While excavating ancient ruins in Rome, archaeologists discovered a derisive painting depicting a slave bowing down before a cross with a jackass hanging on it. The caption reads, “Alexamenos worships his god.”

In the late second century this attitude still existed. A man named Celsus wrote a letter bitterly attacking Christianity. “Let no cultured person draw near, none wise, none sensible,” he said, “for all that kind of thing we count evil; but if any man is ignorant, if any is wanting in sense and culture, if any is a fool, let him come boldly [to Christianity]” (William Barclay, The Letters to the Corinthians [Philadelphia: Westminster, 1975], p.21; cf. Origen’s Against Celsus). “Of the Christians,” he further wrote, “we see them in their own houses, wool dressers, cobblers and fullers, the most uneducated and vulgar persons” (p.21). He compared Christians to a swarm of bats, to ants crawling out of their nests, to frogs holding a symposium around a swamp, and to worms cowering in the muck!

Not wanting to build on human wisdom or appeal to human understanding, Paul told the Corinthians that “when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:1-2). Later in the letter Paul said, “The kingdom of God does not consist in words, but in power” (4:20), the redeeming power of God.

Every believer, no matter how gifted and mature, has human limitations and weaknesses. Our minds, bodies, and perceptions are imperfect. Yet, incredibly God uses us as channels of His redeeming and sustaining power when we serve Him obediently.

Scripture certainly testifies to God’s glorious power (Ex. 15:6), His irresistible power (Deut. 32:39), His unsearchable power (Job 5:9), His mighty power (Job 9:4), His great power (Ps. 79:11), His incomparable power (Ps. 89:8), His strong power (Ps. 89:13), His everlasting power (Isa. 26:4), His effectual power (Isa. 43:13), and His sovereign power (Rom. 9:21). Jeremiah declared of God, “It is He who made the earth by His power, who established the world by His wisdom” (Jer. 10:12), and through that prophet the Lord said of Himself, “I have made the earth, the men and the beasts which are on the face of the earth by My great power and by My outstretched arm” (Jer. 27:5). The psalmist admonished, “Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast” (Ps. 33:8-9). His is the power that can save.

The word dynamic also reminds us of another aspect of the gospel. While bringing spiritual life to a person, we cannot always predict the course it will take. Paul knew that Christians have the responsibility to proclaim the gospel whenever and wherever they can. Believers are not to be ashamed about its simplicity or universality—the gospel’s effectiveness can be entrusted to God. Until we are convinced that the gospel is dynamic and effective, we will tend to be ashamed to pass it on. What has the gospel done in you? If the gospel is a message you know, but not a power that has changed you, it will matter little what you do with it.

The only way to receive salvation is to believe in Christ. This offer is open to all people. The gospel is powerful because the power of God resides in it by nature. This power is not descriptive of how the gospel is effective, but a guarantee that it is effective. The gospel is the inherent power of God that gives salvation to all who accept it. Its power is demonstrated not only by accomplishing the salvation of a person, but also in its undiminished capacity to do this for everyone who believes. What then is salvation? It is the forgiveness of sins, but it goes even deeper—to a restoration to wholeness of all that sin has defaced or destroyed. And salvation can only happen when a person believes. Having made this point, Paul continues to expand on the effectiveness of the gospel in verse 17.

First for the Jew, then for the Gentile.NIV The Jews were given first invitation because they had been God’s special people for more than 2,000 years, ever since God chose Abraham and promised great blessings to his descendants (Genesis 12:1-3). God did not choose them because they deserved to be chosen (Deuteronomy 7:7-8; 9:4-6), but because he wanted to show his love and mercy to them, teach them, and prepare them to welcome his Messiah into the world. He chose them not to play favorites, but so that they would tell the world about his plan of salvation. Being first, then, is simply a statement about the order of God’s plan, rather than an indication of relative value. Paul later makes the case in Romans 4 that when God chose Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation, he was still a Gentile. God chose Abraham to bring into being a nation through which he would work to bring salvation to the world. That nation came to be the Jews. The entire plan has been an expression of God’s love.

For centuries Abraham’s descendants had been learning about God by obeying his laws, keeping his sacrifices and feasts, and living according to his moral principles. Often they forgot God’s promises and requirements and had to be disciplined; but still they had a precious heritage of belief in the one true God. Of all the people on earth, the Jews should have been the most ready to welcome the Messiah and to understand his mission and message—and some of them were. The disciples and Paul were faithful Jews who recognized in Jesus God’s most precious gift to the human race (see Luke 2:25, 36-38). The Jews were given the first opportunity to receive the Messiah during his ministry on earth (John 1:11) and during the days of the early church (Acts 1:8; 3:26). Although Paul was commissioned as the apostle to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15), even he followed this pattern. Whenever Paul went to a new city, he recognized his obligation to carry the gospel to the Jews first (Acts 13:45-46; 28:25, 28).

1:17 In it the righteousness of God is revealed.NRSV The gospel tells us how we, sinners as we are, can be declared righteous before God; and it tells how God, who is righteous, can vindicate sinful people. What then is righteousness? This is precisely what Paul explains in detail in this letter, especially for the benefit of the Gentiles in the church who would have been unfamiliar with the concept.

The phrase righteousness of God can mean “God’s righteousness” or “the righteousness God gives those who believe.” Paul had both definitions in mind. Righteousness is an aspect of God’s character, his standard of behavior, and a description of all that he wishes to give to us. The gospel shows how righteous God is in his plan for us to be saved, and also how we may be called righteous.

This righteousness from God is the righteousness he bestows on people; in other words, it is God’s provision for justifying sinners. The way for sinners to become righteous before God is revealed in the gospel. We could not know about this righteousness were it not for the gospel. Luther defined this as a “righteousness valid before God, which a man may possess through faith.” When God declares us righteous, we have been made right with him. (See also Isaiah 46:12-13; 61:10.)

A righteousness that is by faith.NIV Our righteousness begins because of God’s faithfulness to his promises; it moves on in our response of faith and is a continuing process through life. Thus it is by faith from first to last.NIV Faith—unconditional trust—is the appointed way of receiving God’s righteousness. Faith in what? Faith in the fact that Jesus Christ took our sins upon himself, taking the punishment we deserved, and in exchange making us righteous before God. By trusting in Christ, our relationship with God is made right both for now and for eternity.

The expression by faith from first to last translates what in Greek is literally “from faith to faith.” It is also possible to translate this as “through faith for faith” (nrsv).

From faith to faith seems to parallel “everyone who believes” in the previous verse. If so, the idea is “from faith to faith to faith to faith,” as if Paul were singling out the faith of each individual believer.

In this expression some have seen Paul’s description of the development of faith from beginning to maturity. Others think that Paul might be outlining the transmission of faith from the faithful proclaimer to the faithful responder. The thrust of the phrase, however, indicates that our relationship with God begins and exists by faith. When it comes to our relationship with God, we never initiate; we always respond. We love because he first loved us. Every obedience in the Christian life is based upon a simple trust that God has set us free in Christ to love, instead of leaving us hopelessly trapped in our feeble efforts to be righteous by our own strength.

As it is written: “The one who is righteous will live by faith.”NRSV Paul is quoting from Habakkuk 2:4 this quotation is used again in Galatians 3:11 and Hebrews 10:38. Righteousness by faith was not a new idea—it is found in the writings of the prophets, with which the Jewish believers would be familiar. Even though Paul was taking pains to carry out his mission of carrying the gospel to the Gentiles, he was determined to hold up its connection with the plan and promise God had begun with the Jews. Paul quotes this verse and amplifies what he means by saying that faith is from first to last.

The one who is righteous will live by faith. There are two ways to understand this statement: (1) “the righteous by faith will live”—i.e., one’s faith in God makes him righteous before God, and as a result, he has eternal life or (2) “the righteous will live by faith”—i.e., those made right with God live their Christian lives by remaining faithful to God. In summary, this expression means Christians will live because of God’s faithfulness and because of their response of faith in God; as a result, they will have eternal life and experience fullness in life.

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Posted by on June 7, 2021 in Romans


A study of Romans: The Righteousness of God #1 – An Introduction

Daily Favor: State of God's Favor

As if proving that all roads did lead to Rome, the gospel born in Judea eventually made its way to the capital of the empire. It is not clear how soon the message about Christ actually arrived at Rome, but it produced results.

By the end of the second decade following Christ’s resurrection, there was an established group of Christians there. Several house-churches were probably meeting. Paul opens his letter to these Roman believers, most of whom he had never met, by explaining who he is and what his credentials are.

Almost immediately, he directs their attention to the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul knew that the resurrected Christ was the most important common denominator for him and the believers in Rome. From that common ground he introduces his plan to visit them and then plunges into one of the most detailed explanations of the Christian faith found in the Bible.

When Paul wrote to the Church at Rome he was writing to a Church with those founding he had nothing whatever to do and with which he had no personal contact at all.  That is why Romans, at first sight, seems so much more impersonal. Romans is the nearest approach to a systematic exposition of Paul’s own theological position, independent of any immediate set of circumstances.

It is as if Paul was writing his theological last will and testament, as if into Romans he was distilling the very essence of his faith and belief. Rome was the greatest city in the world, the capital of the greatest Empire the world had ever seen. Paul had never been there, and he did not know if he ever would be there.

Some have called Romans “prophylactic.” A prophylactic is something which guards against infection. Paul had seen too often what harm and trouble could be caused by wrong ideas, twisted notions, misguided conceptions of Christian faith and belief. He therefore wished to send to the Church in the city which was the center of the world a letter which would so build up the structure of their faith that, if infections should ever come to them, they might have in the true word of Christian doctrine a powerful and effective defense. He felt that the best protection against the infection of false teaching was the antiseptic of the truth.


All his life Paul had been haunted by the thought of Rome. It had always been one of his dreams to preach there. When he is in Ephesus, he planning to go through Achaea and Macedonia again, and then comes a sentence obviously dropped straight from the heart, “After I have been there, I must also see Rome” (Acts 19:21).

When he was up against things in Jerusalem, and the situation looked threatening and the end seemed near, he had one of those visions which always lifted up his heart. In that vision the Lord stood by him and said, “Take courage, Paul. For as you have testified about me at Jerusalem, so you must bear witness also at Rome” (Acts 23:11). In the very first chapter of this letter Paul’s desire to see Rome breaths out. “I long to see you that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you” (Romans 1:11). “So, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome” (Romans 1:15).

When he actually wrote the Letter to the Romans, the date was sometime in the year A.D. 58, and he was in Corinth.

A special question?

Suppose you had the power to change the world for the better. What would you choose to do? Would you eliminate war, crime, poverty, or ignorance? I want to tell you about one man who had such an opportunity to change the world for the better and what he chose to do.

The apostle Paul writes in Romans 1:15, “I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.”

Paul says, “If I could make the world a better place, I would choose to bring the gospel to the world.”

On the surface, that may seem to be a rather simple answer to the problems of the world; but it is the right answer. It is the right answer because it can radically change the world for the better.


Why did Paul make that statement? Why did Paul want to give the gospel to the world? Basically, there are three reasons. One of the reasons he announces in Romans 1 when he says, “I am [debtor] under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. Thus, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome” (1:14, 15).

Paul believed that he was in debt to the world. The reason for his debt was that he had previously been a blasphemer and a persecutor of Jesus’ church. When the followers of Christ were being put into prison or put to death, he gave his vote against them. But he had that historical meeting with Christ and came to see that He was not an imposter at all. Saul surrendered to the will of Christ and became a penitent believer in Christ (Acts 9)

A preacher came and told him, “Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name” (Acts 22:16).

When Saul was thus obedient to Christ, he began to preach the gospel that he had once tried to destroy. Because Christ had been so gracious to him, he believed that he was indebted to every man who had not heard about Jesus. Paul, because he had been a blasphemer and a persecutor, thought of himself as the chief of sinners. He writes, therefore, to the Romans, and says, “I am debtor.”


In God’s plans, no part of our background or upbringing is wasted. As with Paul, parts of our past that seem like a liability can be used by God. It is a humbling experience to look back over life and see how God has been able to turn even the difficult situations into good. Our own past makes us a wiser mentor or more merciful counselor to others we meet along the way.


There is a second reason he wanted to bring the gospel to the world. He wanted the gospel to be preached because of who he was.

He was a servant of Jesus Christ (v. 1a). The word Paul used for servant would be meaningful to the Romans, because it is the word slave. There were an estimated 60 million slaves in the Roman Empire; and a slave was looked on as a piece of property, not a person. In loving devotion, Paul had enslaved himself to Christ, to be His servant and obey His will.

He was an apostle (v. 1b). This word means “one who is sent by authority with a commission.” It was applied in that day to the representatives of the emperor or the emissaries of a king. One of the requirements for an apostle was the experience of seeing the risen Christ (1 Cor. 9:1-2). Paul saw Christ when he was on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-9), and it was then that Christ called him to be His apostle to the Gentiles. Paul received from Christ divine revelations that he was to share with the churches.

He was a preacher of the Gospel (vv. 1c-4). When he was a Jewish rabbi, Paul was separated as a Pharisee to the laws and traditions of the Jews. But when he yielded to Christ, he was separated to the Gospel and its ministry. Gospel means “the Good News.” It is the message that Christ died for our sins, was buried and rose again, and now is able to save all who trust Him (1 Cor. 15:1-4). It is “the Gospel of God” (Rom. 1:1) because it originates with God; it was not invented by man. It is “the Gospel of Christ” (Rom. 1:16) because it centers in Christ, the Savior. Paul also calls it “the Gospel of His Son” (Rom. 1:9), which indicates that Jesus Christ is God! In Romans 16:25-26, Paul called it “my Gospel.” By this he meant the special emphasis he gave in his ministry to the doctrine of the church and the place of the Gentiles in the plan of God.

The Gospel is not a new message; it was promised in the Old Testament, beginning in Genesis 3:15. The Prophet Isaiah certainly preached the Gospel in passages such as Isaiah 1:18, and chapters 53 and 55. The salvation we enjoy today was promised by the prophets, though they did not fully understand all that they were preaching and writing.

1 Peter 1:10-12 (ESV) Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11  inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. 12  It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.

Jesus Christ is the center of the Gospel message. Paul identified Him as a man, a Jew, and the Son of God. He was born of a virgin (Isa. 7:14; Matt. 1:18-25) into the family of David, which gave Him the right to David’s throne. He died for the sins of the world, and then was raised from the dead. It is this miraculous event of substitutionary death and victorious resurrection that constitutes the Gospel; and it was this Gospel that Paul preached.

He was a missionary to the Gentiles (vv. 5-7). In this setting apart Paul was aware of having received two things. In Rom 1:5 he tells us what these two things were.

(a) He had received grace. Grace always describes some gift which is absolutely free and absolutely unearned. In his pre-Christian days Paul had sought to earn glory in the eyes of men and merit in the sight of God by meticulous observance of the works of the law, and he had found no peace that way. Now he knew that what mattered was not what he could do, but what God had done. It has been put this way, “The law lays down what a man must do; the gospel lays down what God has done.” Paul now saw that salvation depended not on what man’s effort could do, but on what God’s love had done. All was of grace, free and undeserved.

(b) He had received a task. He was set apart to be the apostle to the Gentiles. Paul knew himself to be chosen not for special honor, but for special responsibility. He knew that God had set him apart, not for glory, but for toil. It may well be that there is a play on words here. Once Paul had been a Pharisee (Php 3:5). Pharisee may very well mean The Separated One. It may be that the Pharisees were so called because they had deliberately separated themselves from all ordinary people and would not even let the skirt of their robe brush against an ordinary man. They would have shuddered at the very thought of the offer of God being made to the Gentiles, who to them were “fuel for the fires of hell.” Once Paul had been like that. He had felt himself separated in such a way as to have nothing but contempt for all ordinary men. Now he knew himself to be separated in such a way that he must spend all his life to bring the news of God’s love to every man of every race. Christianity always separates us, but it separates us not for privilege and self-glory and pride, but for service and humility and love for all men.

There were probably several assemblies of believers in Rome and not just one church, since in Romans 16 Paul greets a number of “home church” groups (Rom. 16:5, 10-11, 14). We do not know for certain how these churches began, but it is likely that believers from Rome who were at Pentecost established the assemblies on their return to Rome (Acts 2:10).

There were both Jews and Gentiles in these fellowships, because Paul addresses both in this letter. 0ews: Rom. 2:17-29; 4:1; 7:1. Gentiles: Rom. 1:13; 11:13-24; 15:15-21.) The churches in Rome were not founded by Peter or any other apostle. If they had been, Paul would not have planned to visit Rome, because his policy was to minister only where no other apostle had gone (Rom. 15:20-21).

Paul’s special commission was to take the Gospel to the Gentiles (the word nations means Gentiles), and this is why he was planning to go to Rome, the very capital of the empire. He was a preacher of the Gospel, and the Gospel was for all nations. In fact, Paul was anxious to go to Spain with the message of Christ (Rom. 15:28).


There is a third reason. He wanted the gospel to be preached because of what the gospel is. He says, “Paul, a bondservant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God” (1:1). The gospel is “of God.” The gospel had its origin with God Himself.

God is. The world speaks of God’s existence. “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; . . .” Psalms19:1 says. Every man has within himself a consciousness, a trait that is of God. God put it there. We can know that God is from the creation and our moral consciousness.

What if God had never spoken? We could know something about God, but we would not know how to please Him. But the good news is that God has spoken. His message is in the Bible. God has spoken in these last days unto us through His Son (Hebrews 1:1-3). God has spoken and we can know His will.

The second fact about the gospel he explains in 1:2: “Which He [God] promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures.” The gospel was in the mind of God from eternity. As the Old Testament unfolds its story, God begins to reveal the good news by His prophets. For example, in Genesis 3:15 the Bible promised that the seed of the woman would bruise the head of the serpent or Satan. This was a promise of the gospel. When God called a man by the name of Abram (Genesis 12) and told him that He would make of him a great nation, give that nation the land of Canaan in which to live, and through him all families of the earth would be blessed, He was promising the gospel.

When the prophet said, “But He was pierced through for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our wellbeing fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him” (Isaiah 53:5, 6), a promise through the prophets of the reality of the coming of the gospel was being made.

Here is fact number three about the gospel: He says, “Concerning His Son, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, who was declared with power to be the Son of God by the resurrection. . . .” (1:3, 4). The gospel centers in a person, and that person is Christ. “Jesus” emphasizes His humanity. He was a man among men. “Christ” emphasizes His deity. He is the anointed  one  of  God.

The  Christ,  Jesus  of Nazareth, was the perfect combination of humanity and deity. Paul says He was made of the seed of David according to the flesh. That is, He descended through the line of David, the greatest king in Israel. In the Old Testament, God promised David that long after his death. He would raise up one of his descendents to sit upon his throne (2 Samuel 7). The Messiah was to come through David.

But He was more than simply a man. Paul affirms that He was declared to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection. No one can reasonably deny that Jesus Christ is the Son of God if He, in fact, was raised from the dead. The evidence is that His tomb was empty. He was even seen after His resurrection. By the resurrection, He was proven to be the Son of God. No wonder Paul wanted to tell the good news of the gospel to everyone. It is God’s message. It concerns the person of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Paul says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God. . . .” (1:16). The reason Paul wanted to tell the world about Christ was that the gospel was the power of God.

God has various kinds of power. He has creative power. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). He has sustaining power; He upholds this world by the Word of His power (Hebrews 1:1-3). He has transforming power to bring a man into a proper relationship with Himself. That power is the gospel. The gospel is God’s drawing power. In John 12:32 Jesus said, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” Like a mighty magnet the cross of Jesus Christ draws men to God. It is God’s saving power. Salvation meets man’s greatest need. The gospel is God’s keeping power. As man lives his life within the framework of the gospel, he is kept by the power of God to save. The gospel is the power of God.

Paul becomes more specific in 1:16 when he says the gospel is the power of God “for salvation.” Man is lost. He needs more than anything else to be saved. The gospel is the power of God to save. It is easy for a man to look at his own life and reach the conclusion, “I am a fairly good man.” But Paul tells us in 3:23, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” No one is excluded; not the worst of men, or the best of men. Unless you have always been perfect every word, thought, and deed in your life, you need the gospel. The only answer to our sin problem is the gospel.

Paul goes further. He says the gospel is the power of God for salvation “to everyone” (1:16). No one is excluded. Everyone needs the gospel; everyone is included in the gospel. If the good news of Jesus Christ were for all men except me, it would not be good news to me. If it were for all men except Americans, it would not be good news for us. When God says “to everyone,” He settles it. It is for you; it is for me; it is for all.

He also says the gospel is the power of God unto salvation to everyone “who believes” (1:16). Belief is man’s response to God. It is man’s link with God. Let us not make the mistake of think- ing that belief is simply the attitude which says, “Okay, it is true.” Biblical belief is not falling off a log. Biblical belief is a commitment to gospel truth. Believing the truth, I commit my very life to Jesus. It is not enough to say, “I am a sinner; Christ is the Savior.” Belief in Christ says, “Lord, I am in need.

You are the answer to that need. What will You have me do?” It is complete and absolute surrender to the will of Christ. Is it not tragic that many people have come to see that they are sinful and that Jesus is the answer to sin, but they have never surrendered? Consequently, the salvation that the gospel brings has never been theirs. Belief is a commitment to gospel truth.

When you open the New Testament and find the will of Christ for your life, what will you do with it? Perhaps it is not what you have always thought. Some will reject what Christ said. They will reject it upon the basis of “I think it should be done differently.” That is not faith at all. When the will of Christ conflicts with our will, we surrender our will to Him. That is biblical faith. Do we believe? This is the bottom line of Romans 1. It is all for naught unless we believe it.

Romans is gospel-centered

One of the “great themes” which the Book of Romans expounds and emphasizes is that of the gospel. Paul’s introduction and conclusion are dominated by the theme of the gospel. Everything in between them is an exposition of the gospel. There is no other book of the Bible which so fully expounds the gospel as Romans. If you would understand the gospel, go to Romans.

Have you believed this gospel? Do you recognize that you are among the “all” who are judged to be sinners, and who are destined for God’s wrath? Do you know that Jesus Christ died so that your punishment would be His, and so that His righteousness could be yours? Have you ceased trying to earn your own righteousness and received His righteousness by faith? That is the offer of the gospel, but it is an offer that you must receive.

(1) The gospel is never understood as fully by the Christian as it could and should be. We can never hear the gospel too often. We can never understand it too well.

(2) The gospel is constantly being distorted. In our own sin, we are inclined to distort it, both in its application to ourselves, and in our representation of it to others. The gospel as defined in Romans is a standard, against which we must constantly measure our own concept of the gospel. Romans is the perfect standard; ours is the imperfect.

(3) The gospel is not only that truth by which we are saved and that truth by which others are saved as we bear witness, it is also that truth which is the standard for our daily lives. Paul said to the Colossians, “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him” (Colossians 2:6).

Why is the gospel so important? Paul has already told us, at the beginning of his epistle. The gospel is “the power of God unto salvation,” and it “reveals the righteousness of God” (Romans 1:16-17). No wonder the gospel is so prominent in the Book of Romans.

Romans is God-centered

How often we make man the center of our “universe,” wanting to put God into orbit around us, waiting for Him to meet our needs and to make us happy and comfortable. It is God who is to be central and preeminent, not men. It is we who are to orient our lives to Him. When you read through the Book of Romans, you will be constantly reminded that it is God who is most prominently displayed here.

The character of God, in many of its facets, is displayed in Romans, such that Paul will pause to praise and adore Him for who He is (see Romans 8:31-39 and especially 11:33-36). There are many of the attributes of God described in this great Epistle, but none greater or more prominent than that of God’s righteousness.

I would like to suggest that the righteousness of God is that attribute of God’s character which makes His other attributes all the more glorious. Think of a God who is all-powerful, but who is not righteous and just. It is a horrifying thought. Power without righteousness is terrifying. Think of a God who is “loving” but who is not also righteous. This would be mere sentimentalism. A love rooted in justice is a marvelous thing. Think too of a merciful God, who was not also righteous.

The righteousness of God. What a marvelous truth. What comfort! What discomfort! May we see more and more of God’s righteousness in Romans, in the church, and in our own lives, to the praise of the glory of His grace.



Posted by on June 3, 2021 in Romans

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