Romans 1:19-3:20 – Awake to Righteousness (Bible study notes)

You can find the video teaching for these notes by clicking this link: Romans Bible study — week 3 — Awake to Righteousness

  • last week we studied Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.
    • Wrath comes from the root “orego” – stretching oneself out in order to touch or grasp something. A beautiful picture of Jesus stretching Himself out (on the Cross) in order to draw us to Himself.
    • Wrath (orego) also means to yearn after, to desire, to stretch toward (to pull towards) a picture of The Father in His love for us, desired us and stretched toward us (through Jesus), pulling us to Himself — 1 Cor 5:19 – reconciling us to Himself
    • That’s the wrath of God in the New Covenant.
  • The wrath of God is not something mankind had to fear after the finished work of Christ
    • God condemned sin in Jesus — 2 Cor 5:21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
    • God is not imputing sin against us — 2 Cor 5:19 God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.
    • God is not pouring out His wrath on mankind today — Romans 5:9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!
  • So with that understanding….. let’s look at Romans 1:18 connects to verses 16 and 17.
  • Romans 1:18:  For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,
    • This verse is not describing how God currently deals with mankind
    • Paul says Romans 1:18 on the heels of v. 16-17
      • v. 16 – the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation (sozo – wholeness) for ALL men —Passion:  it is God’s liberating power unleashed in us IN CHRIST
      • v. 17 – because in it God’s righteousness is revealed – a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
  • So in the Gospel – the Good News of Christ – the righteousness of God is revealed which was through Jesus’ obedience, ALL were made righteous (Romans 5:19)
  • this righteousness comes only by resting in God’s faith (Hab. 2:4)


  • I don’t believe verses 16-17 and verse 18 are 2 different streams of thought – I believe verses 16-17 flows right into verse 18
    • the word “for” in v. 18 is gar in Greek which means it’s sense is shaped by the preceding statement which would be v. 17

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;


  • revealed – what was hidden was made known
    • The Gospel reveals
      • His righteousness – we are made right with (reconciled) to God IN CHRIST
      • His wrath –  Jesus stretched out on the cross drawing ALL men to Him and the Father’s love stretching toward us as He was IN CHRIST on the cross reconciling ALL men to Himself — Jesus died for the ungodly and the unrighteous (Romans 5:6-8)
  • against (v.18) – this word in the Greek is “epi” which is a preposition.  The root of this preposition means upon or toward.
      • It also means the response or effect of the envisioned contract
        • God’s vision saw us IN CHRIST (Eph 1:4) and Jesus’ response (obedience/faithfulness) to the contract or covenant He made with the Father was to take our sin and give us His righteousness (Rom 5:19; 2 Cor 5:21)
    • You see this verse differently if you read it through the lens of the finished work….
      • The wrath of God (finished work of Jesus) is revealed (made known) TOWARD ALL ungodliness and unrighteousness, who by their unrighteousness suppress (hold back) the truth (reality – what God knows to be true/real)
    • against means in opposition to and reading it like that keeps us sin conscious and thinking God is angry with us and has to punish our sin
      • the problem with translating like that is that Jesus took away the sin of the world – ALL men
    • But when you read that verse through the lens of the finished work, reading it in conjunction with verses 16 & 17, and as we look at the root of “epi”, then this verse sounds alot like Romans 5.
      • Romans 5:6-9:  For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. (7) For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. (8) But God showed his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (9) Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him
  • In these 2 verses, Paul says both righteousness and wrath are revealed.
    • Righteousness is revealed in the Gospel of Christ – the Good news of God’s grace
    • And wrath is revealed in the finished work of Jesus


  • With that as our foundation, let’s summarize chapters 1:19-32; chapter 2; and chapter 3:1-20


  • Paul spends the rest of chapter 1 describing just how bad humanity and their religions had become — and their desperate need for a Savior.
  • in verse 19 it says what may be known of God is manifest in them (mankind)
    • alot of translations say among them but the King James and others say what the Greek says…. manifest in them
    • manifest is the word phaneros meaning clearly visible and comes from the word phaino meaning to shine like light
    • I like the World English Bible – is revealed in them
    • that makes me think of Galatians 1:15-16 where Paul said it pleased the Father to reveal His Son in me.
    • Paul wasn’t looking for God, in fact he was on his way to murder Believers… but the Father revealed (made known what was hidden, uncovered and brought to light) His Son in Paul
  • Ecc 3:11 says He has set (given) eternity into (every) heart, without which man cannot find the work God has done from beginning to end.
    • God isn’t unknown to any human being
    • v. 19 in the Passion says: In reality, the truth of God is known instinctively, for God has embedded this knowledge inside every human heart.
    • a distorted mindset (lacking a revelation of our true identity – made in His image and likeness) keeps us from responding to that knowledge of God embedded in our hearts.
  • Jesus came to unveil to us that we were made in the image and likeness of God — Just like God!  
    • He didn’t come as an example for us but rather as us.
      • Col 2:9-10  tells us that God found an accurate and complete expression of Himself in a human body (Christ) and our own completeness is now found IN HIM.
  • v. 19 is linked to v. 18 with the word “because” – which means on account of
    • Because Jesus reconciled us back to God by stretched Himself out on the Cross (wrath) and exchanged our sin for His righteousness, the intimate knowledge of God is made manifest – clearly revealed, shining like light in mankind.
    • Mankind only has to awaken to the Truth!


  • Verse 21 says mankind however only knew Him in a philosophical way, from a distance and failed to give Him credit as God.
    • Paul describing the brokenness of fallen humanity — Passion: Throughout human history the fingerprints of God were upon them (they instinctively knew God), yet they refused to honor him as God or even be thankful for his kindness. Instead, they entertained corrupt and foolish thoughts about what God was like. This left them with nothing but misguided hearts, steeped in moral darkness.
    • v. 28 tells us that their indifference veiled God from them.
    • Losing sight of God, made them lose sight of who they really were – Col 2:10 our own completeness is now found IN HIM
    • By being confused about their Maker they became confused about themselves which led to all kinds of distorted behavior.
  • From verse 18 to 32 Paul paints the picture of the dilemma and darkness of the fallen mindset – a distorted image/identity.
    • The result of that fallen mindset was mankind was no longer walking in the knowledge of who they were — made in the image and likeness of God.   
    • Humanity needed a Savior to restore that which was lost.
      • What was lost was the image of God in man and intimate relationship between man and God.


  • Then in chapter 2 Paul makes it clear that it isn’t only the Gentiles that are in need of a Savior but also the Jews
    • The Jews had trusted in the Law for their righteousness and circumcision as the sign of their covenant with God
      • Paul tells them that a true Jew is one who is a Jew inwardly – with a circumcised heart by the Spirit not the law


  • Finally, in chapter 3 he continues to tell them that ALL men are guilty – the unrighteous and self righteous
  • He ends this section (Romans 1:19-3:20) with 2 statements….
    • 3:20: because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.
  1. Justification does not come through the law
  2. What comes through the law is the knowledge of sin
    • through the law we become sin conscious and realize our need for a Savior
    • and if you are sin conscious you can’t be righteousness conscious


  • So, what do we need to take away from Romans 1-3:20 so that we can get a better understanding of the rest of the book of Romans
    • We need to have a revelation of righteousness


  • Romans 1:16-17 told us the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation (sozo – wholeness in every area of life)…. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed.
  • (Passion) it is the message of God’s liberating power unleashed in us through Christ…. This gospel unveils a continual revelation of God’s righteousness—
  • Hebrews 5:12b-13 “….You’re like children still needing milk and not yet ready to digest solid food. For every spiritual infant who lives on milk is not yet pierced by the revelation of righteousness.”
    • Paul links the revelation of righteousness with maturity
    • Paul tells the Hebrews they have become dull (lazy) of hearing (spiritual hearing) and are like babies.
      • dull comes from the root nothos meaning illegitimate, a bastard
      • God doesn’t have any illegitimate children — to be dull is to not have a revelation of your sonship… it’s an identity issue.
      • sons hear and understand the revelation of their righteousness IN CHRIST – as sons we need to wake up to the revelation of righteousness — who we are IN CHRIST
  • 1 Cor 15:34 says we are to awake to righteousness — Greek says awake to righteousness, not sin — it doesn’t say awake to righteousness and stop sinning!  
    • awake is eknepho which means soberness of mind; to be awakened out of apathy
      • apathy sounds like what Paul was saying in Hebrews 5 being “dull or lazy”
      • Paul is saying be righteousness conscious not sin conscious
      • wake up to who you truly are —  righteous
      • that’s the revelation that delivers you from sin consciousness.
  • Paul tells us in Colossians 1:28 Christ is our message! We preach to awaken hearts and present every person perfect in Christ
    • perfect is teleios meaning full grown or mature.  
    • Back to Hebrews 5 where Paul linked revelation of righteousness with maturity, being full grown IN CHRIST
      • what did Paul say would bring about this maturity?
      • He said Christ is our message — v. 27 says making known Christ in you
      • A revelation of who Christ is in them and who they are IN CHRIST — this revelation of righteousness is the key to our growing up mature
      • being mature is having a revelation of our identity — sonship


  • And Romans 2:4 tells us it’s the goodness of God that causes a man to repent


next week we’ll look at Romans 2:4 in depth before we move on to Romans 3:21-31…. what the goodness of God is and what true repentance looks like


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