Romans: Who Are The Heathen?

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A man asked God how long a million years was to Him. God replied, “It’s just like a single second of your time, my child.” So the man asked, “And what about a million dollars?” The Lord replied, “To me, it’s just like a single penny.” So the man gathered himself up and said, “Well, Lord, could I have one of your pennies?” And God said, “Certainly, my child, just a second.”

Did you hear about the classified ad that read something like this: “Lost – One dog. Brown hair with several mange spots. Right leg broken due to auto accident. Rear left hip hurt. Right eye missing. Left ear bitten off in dog fight. Answers to name ‘lucky.'” Lucky? Of course!

That was a lucky dog. He was lucky because, with all those things wrong with him, somebody still wanted him and was willing to pay to get him back. Isn’t that the story of the gospel? With all of our sin and rebellion, God still loved us enough to pay the ultimate price to win us back to Himself.

The mandate of the Church by Jesus is to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. Just who was that mission to? Obviously to people who were not disciples of Jesus. To people who were not baptized. To people who were not obeying God’s commandments. The unconverted, the unbeliever and as we like to say the unsaved.

Jesus’ ministry was to all people. Christ often referred to the unbeliever as “gentile.” In Hebrew language, a gentile was anyone other than a Jewish person. But in the Hebrew mind-set, gentile became a term meaning barbarian, pagan and non-believer. Almost without exception viewed as hopeless!

This prevailed even though God has always offered His salvation to anyone who would accept it. Melchizedek was not Jewish and not only was a believer in the One God but was a priest that Abraham gave a tithe too. (Genesis 14:18-19) Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. Jethro was the father-in-law and he was not Jewish. EXO 2:16 Now a priest of Midian had seven daughters, and they came to draw water and fill the troughs to water their father’s flock. Again, he was not Jewish and a believer.

Being a heathen has very little to do with nationality. Has nothing to do with being male or female. Even though women appear to be more involved in the church than men. It has very little to do with age. Even though the older we grow the more involved in the Church we become. Heathen are not people who are simply different. Some of the nicest people in the world are heathen. However, Paul expects to find the heathen outside the Church not in the Church. That is why he writes in Hebrews, not to neglect the assembling of ourselves together. We become like those whom we associate with. If we want to become a Christian and live like a Christian, you have to fellowship with Christians.

Some time ago I was sharing with a Christian friend who, like myself, was a minister. In the course of our conversation he said something I will never forget: “Bill, all I really want in life is for the Word of God to take up residence inside of me and form me into Christ-likeness.” I think this statement hit me because this is the essence of what the Bible is all about. We were always asking “What does it say?” and seldom if ever made the step into a deep personal application of “How can that truth take up residence in me?”

For Paul in his Roman’s writings, this was at the very heart of the difference between being a heathen and a believer. Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

The bottom line? Where is your heart? The issue isn’t, “are we a sinner?” We are all sinners. What is the intent of the heart?

Jesus said, MAT 7:21 “Not everyone who says to me, `Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. You see, I’m like the lucky dog. I come with mange spots. Broken and sinful life. With parts of me missing. But I am lucky, not because of the why that I have lived, but because there is someone who loves me and wants me.

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