(Vs. 16) The apostle declares that he is not ashamed of the gospel of God's grace, of mercy to the guilty through Christ, of salvation by substitution. Though it seemed nonsense to some and a stumbling block to others, Paul was not ashamed to believe it and to preach it (I Cor. 1:18-24). Some in religion reveal that they cannot bear the reproach of His gospel. They own it in private, but they will not preach it in public. Some cover the offense of the cross with words of wisdom and human philosophy, seeking to please men. Some add their works to His grace.
The gospel of Christ and the preaching of that gospel are the means God uses to: (1) quicken dead sinners (James 1:18; I Peter 1:23; Mark 16:15-16), (2) open blind eyes (II Cor. 4:3-6), (3) reveal Christ (Rom. 10:13-15; I Cor. 15: 1-4), and (4) declare salvation through Christ (Rom. 3:24-26).
"To the Jew first and also to the Greek." The word "Greek" includes all the Gentles. These two classes comprehend all mankind. The Jews were chosen to receive the law, the prophets, the types, and the tabernacle; thus, we can say the gospel in type and promise was first preached to them (John 1:11-13; Rom. 3:1-2).
(Vs. 17) The gospel of Christ reveals the righteousness of God (Rom. 3:25-26). if we would seek salvation or life with God, His righteousness must first be found; for God is holy, just, and righteous; and in order to be loved by God, accepted by God, and justified before God, WE MUST BECOME RIGHTEOUS--not by OUR righteousness, which is filthy rags, but by HIS righteousness (Matt. 5:20; Rom. 10:1-4). We cannot obtain salvation anywhere but through the gospel of Christ, for therein is the RIGIITEOUSNESS OF GOD revealed (Rom. 5:19; II Cor. 5:21). This righteousness is not known nor understood by the light of nature but must be REVEALED (I Cor. 2:9-10).
"Revealed from faith to faith." Righteousness is secured by Christ and received by faith. "From faith to faith" means from one degree of faith to another; for faith, like any other grace, grows. As we grow in faith, we have a clearer view of God's righteousness in Christ and a clearer view of our sin and unworthiness.
"The just shall live by faith." Four times this appears in scripture (Hab. 2:4; Gal. 3:11; Heb. 10:38). We begin by faith (Rom. 3:22), we continue in faith (Col. 1:23), and we die in faith (Heb. 11:13). We live not upon faith, but BY IT UPON CHRIST!
(Vs. 18) There are two revelations given from heaven: one is the GRACE of God in Christ (the righteousness of God upon all who believe) and the other is the WRATH and judgment of God upon unbelievers.
This wrath is revealed in the law, in the judgment of God upon Adam, Sodom, Noah's world, and countless other examples, and in the cross of Christ on which God spared not His own Son Who bore the sin of His sheep (Psa. 5:5; Psa. 7:11; John 3:36).
The apostle begins in this verse to describe the awful ungodliness and unrighteousness of men living under the revelation of nature but destitute of the true knowledge of God. They have SOME KNOWLEDGE OF the DIVINE BEING through creation and conscience but repress it and give way to evil only.
(Vs. 19-20) There are some things, which cannot be known of God except through gospel revelation, but there are some things which may be known of God by nature. God Himself is invisible; but His power, majesty, and glory shine forth in the things He has made (Psalm 19:1).
"Clearly SEEN" is the word used here. God gave men eyes to look about them, above them, and around them to behold His glory.
"Being UNDERSTOOD" refers to the mind and heart of man, which should in an intelligent and thoughtful way recognize God and love God. Because they walk not in the light which they have, they are without excuse. They have no excuse for their idolatry and vicious lives. When sons of Adam have nothing more than the manifestation of the living God in the works of creation, providence, the law, and conscience, they have enough to render them inexcusable before God; for it is their duty to make good use of these things; and the cause of their not doing so is their evil hearts (Rom. 2:14-15).