What does Romans 1:18-3:20 really mean?

Romans 1:18-3:20 is about how all people, whether Jews or Gentiles, are guilty before God and in need of his righteousness apart from the law.

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.
19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.
20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools,
23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves,
25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature;
27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
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.
29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips,
30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents,
31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.
32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
1 Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.
2 We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things.
3 Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God?
4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?
5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.
6 He will render to each one according to his works:
7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life;
8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.
9 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek,
10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek.
11 For God shows no partiality.
12 For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law.
13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.
14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law.
15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them.
16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.
17 But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God
18 and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law;
19 and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness,
20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth—
21 you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal?
22 You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery?
23 You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law.
24 For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”
25 For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision.
26 So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision?
27 Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law.
28 For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical.
29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.
1 Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision?
2 Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God.
3 What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God?
4 By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written, “That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged.”
5 But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.)
6 By no means! For then how could God judge the world?
7 But if through my lie God’s truth abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner?
8 And why not do evil that good may come?—as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just.
10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one;
10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one;
11 no one understands; no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.”
“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood;”
16 “in their paths are ruin and misery,”
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.
20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.


Setting the Scene for Romans 1:18-3:20

The scene in Romans 1:18-3:20 is set in a bustling marketplace in ancient Rome. The air is filled with the sounds of merchants haggling, the smell of various goods being sold, and the chatter of people going about their daily business. In the midst of this chaotic scene, a diverse group of individuals has gathered to listen to a speaker who stands on a makeshift platform, passionately proclaiming a message.

Among the crowd are Roman citizens, slaves, merchants, soldiers, and travelers from distant lands. They have come together for various reasons – some out of curiosity, others seeking answers to life’s questions, and a few out of genuine interest in the message being shared. The speaker, likely a Christian missionary or preacher, is addressing the crowd with urgency and conviction, warning them about the consequences of their sinful ways and urging them to turn to God for salvation.

As the speaker continues to expound on the moral decay and spiritual blindness of humanity, the crowd listens intently, some nodding in agreement while others appear skeptical or even hostile. The scene is charged with tension as the message confronts the listeners with the reality of their sinfulness and the need for repentance and redemption. The marketplace, usually a place of commerce and social interaction, has now become a stage for a profound spiritual encounter, challenging the hearts and minds of all who are present.

What is Romans 1:18-3:20 about?

Absolutely, these verses serve as a powerful reminder of the universal struggle with sin that all individuals face. They illustrate how no one is exempt from sinfulness and how it separates us from God’s perfect standard of righteousness. We can start to grasp the immense need for God’s saving grace and forgiveness in our lives by acknowledging our own limitations and tendencies towards sin.

Reflecting on these verses prompts us to contemplate our own actions and attitudes. It challenges us to consider if we have fallen short of God’s standards and how we can seek His mercy and salvation. These verses ultimately invite us to humbly recognize our need for a savior and to turn to God for guidance, transformation, and redemption. God’s grace is abundant and His love is unconditional, offering us the hope of salvation and renewed relationship with Him as we grapple with our own sinfulness.

Understanding what Romans 1:18-3:20 really means

Romans 1:18-3:20, penned by the Apostle Paul, delves into the universal sinfulness of humanity and the righteousness of God. In this passage, Paul aims to demonstrate that all individuals, whether Jews or Gentiles, stand in need of God’s grace due to their inherent sinfulness. The opening verse sets the tone, declaring that “the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people” (Romans 1:18). This highlights God’s righteous anger towards human sin, a theme echoed in Ephesians 5:6, warning against deception and disobedience leading to divine wrath.

Moreover, the passage emphasizes humanity’s inclination to exchange the truth about God for lies, as stated in Romans 1:25. This tendency to reject God’s truth and embrace falsehood mirrors the deception of Eve in Genesis 3:4-5, illustrating the enduring struggle with sin. Paul reinforces the universal nature of sin by proclaiming, “There is no one righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:10), drawing from Psalm 14:1-3 to underscore the pervasive sinfulness that precludes any claim to moral superiority.

The pivotal declaration in Romans 3:23, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” encapsulates the overarching theme of universal sinfulness and the inability of humanity to meet God’s perfect standard independently. Ecclesiastes 7:20 further reinforces this truth, emphasizing the universal reality of human sinfulness and the impossibility of achieving righteousness through personal efforts alone. These key themes and phrases serve as poignant reminders of the dire need for God’s grace in the face of human inadequacy.

The relevance of this passage to contemporary audiences is profound. It underscores the universal need for God’s grace, transcending cultural, social, and religious boundaries. By highlighting moral accountability before a holy and just God, Romans 1:18-3:20 prompts introspection and humility, fostering a recognition of personal sinfulness and dependence on God’s mercy. Just as the realization of one’s hidden sins humbled an individual in the anecdote, this passage calls each of us to acknowledge our own sinfulness and embrace God’s grace with humility and compassion towards others.

In conclusion, Romans 1:18-3:20 serves as a poignant reminder of the pervasive nature of human sinfulness and the indispensable role of God’s grace in salvation. As we reflect on this passage, may we humbly acknowledge our need for God’s grace, extend that grace to others, and live out the transformative power of redemption in our daily lives.

What happens if we suppress the truth about God?

When the truth about God is suppressed, people become “futile in their thinking” and their hearts are darkened. Instead of acknowledging and honoring God, they turn to worship creatures rather than the Creator. This suppression of the truth leads to a downward spiral of unrighteousness and sin, as individuals exchange the truth of God for a lie and give themselves up to dishonorable passions. Those who suppress the truth about God are ultimately without excuse because the evidence of God’s existence and divine nature is clearly seen in the world around us. The rejection of this truth leads to judgment and wrath from God, as individuals continue to indulge in sinful behavior without repentance. Thus, the consequences of suppressing the truth about God are severe, resulting in a separation from God and a life marked by disobedience and unrighteousness.


In a world filled with deadlines and responsibilities, it’s easy to overlook our own shortcomings. But just as we prioritize our tasks at work and nurture our relationships with family, let’s not forget to tend to our spiritual well-being. Let’s take a moment to reflect on our actions, acknowledge our mistakes, and seek forgiveness from God. Will you rise to the occasion, embracing humility and obedience on this journey towards spiritual growth and renewal?