Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.
Among the many distinguishing features of the Bible is the fact that whatever subject it addresses, it does so in an amazingly straightforward manner. The Scripture is a most outspoken, candid, and frank book. It never beats around the bush, but always tells it like it is. If we have trouble with the Bible, it is not because it is hard to understand, but is hard to swallow. The Bible never sugarcoats its message. It never pulls any punches. It never softens the hard blow of truth. To the contrary, the Bible speaks forthrightly in a most direct manner.
The passage for this study, Romans 1:24-27, is no exception. Here in these verses is the graphic portrayal of the world in its age-long rebellion against its Creator. This passage brings an excoriating indictment against fallen mankind for its prolonged cosmic treason against God. By this brutally honest portrayal, it may be rightly assumed that the Bible must be the word of God. If you and I had written the book of Romans, we probably would have left out this dismal section from our account of human history. We might have felt it is too negative to win over an audience with our readers. Or if we did include these verses, we might have hidden it at the end of the book of Romans where it would not be read by most readers. But not the apostle Paul writing under the influence of the Holy Spirit. He intentionally positioned these verses on the front doorstep of the book of Romans for all to read. Here it is, front and center – God’s abandonment of portions of the human race.
No reader can encounter this book without being immediately confronted with the radical corruption of the human race. What is even more startling, here is the unbelieving world’s abandonment by God in His severe judgment. In these verses, here is the sobering reality of God forsaking those who have repeatedly turned their backs on Him. There is nothing more terrifying than what we see here. When a person is turned over by God to his sins, he has reached the point of no return. This tragic reality has occurred to many nations, cultures, and denominations. It has even occurred to many individuals down through the centuries. Here is the explanation for much of what we see in the world around us.
I. The abandonment declared (1:24a)
This new unit of thought starts with the word "therefore" (verse 24), which reaches back to what Paul previously said and pulls it forward to his continuing argument. “Therefore” serves as a bridge that connects what he just said (verses 18-23) with what he will now say (verses 24-32). This important word – “therefore” – leads to the necessary conclusion to what he just asserted and further advances his argument. In order to understand Paul’s unfolding logic, we must remind ourselves of what he wrote in the previous cluster of verses in which he described mankind’s intentional rejection of the knowledge of God. In the preceding paragraph (verses 18-23), Paul declared that the human race has committed the most flagrant crime that can be committed. Mankind has rejected the truth about God Himself and in so doing, has rejected Him.
As earlier established, God has revealed Himself to every single person through the works of His creation (verses 19-20). The existence of God the Creator should be obvious to every person, because the reality of the created universe and all it contains necessitates the existence of the Creator. To look at the many complexities of the solar system and planet earth, as well as the multi-faceted intricacies of the human body, and then assume that this just happened by mere chance, out of nothing, should be utterly absurd to any logically-thinking mind. But sadly, many reject the clear witness of God concerning His own existence and perfect character. Paul explains that in rejecting the knowledge of God, they exchanged that truth for lies (verse 23). Lost humanity has replaced the knowledge of the Creator with the worship of what the creature has made with their own hands. This mind-numbing trade off is the ultimate insanity, giving up God for vanity. The Bible says of these individuals, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 14:1).
When anyone refuses the truth about God, he has chosen a path that is taking him further away from God. Such sin-hardened unbelief places one on a dramatic departure further away from God at an accelerated speed. This person is like a boat once tied to a dock, but a powerful river current has unloosened its rope, causing the boat to drift downstream. The longer the boat is drifting, the swifter the current becomes, taking it further away. In like manner, these God-rejectors are adrift from the knowledge of God, being taken further and further away from Him.
From this sobering truth, we learn that no person is ever static in their relationship with God. Everyone is either drawing closer to God, or they are drifting further away from Him. But no one is stationary with God. No one stands still in their proximity to Him. By this account, those who reject God are drifting further away into the darkness of sin.
At a point known only to God, this rejection of Him inevitably leads to divine abandonment. Paul writes, “God gave them over in the lust of their hearts to impurity” (verse 24). This is a severe judgment issued by God in which He delivers them over to deeper sins. There are some Bible commentators who presume that this means that God merely allows sinful man to go his own way.
While initially that may be true, that is not what this verse says. To the contrary, this pronouncement is far more judicial. God is the One who is taking the active role in this severe judgment. This is not God merely observing or permitting men to go their own way. It is not God simply letting go of the rope and allowing the current of sin take this individual further away from Him. Instead, God is the One who is shoving this life downstream. This is God saying, "So, you want to go away from Me? Then I am going to give you a shove in that direction you want to go. I am going to send you further away from Me."
Here we learn that there comes a point in time, whether it is with a God-rejecting nation, a Scripture-defying denomination, church, or seminary – or an individual – when God gives them a shove to believe the lies of this world. This abandonment by God turns them over to the judgment of becoming engrossed yet further in their sin.
“God Gave Them Over”
The verb, "gave them over" (paradidomi) means ‘to be handed over to judgment.’ This same word is used elsewhere in Romans to describe when Jesus Christ was handed over to judgment for our sins. Paul writes that Jesus “was delivered over because of our transgressions” (Romans 4:25). This verb describes Him being given over to the judgment of God upon the cross when He bore our sins. We see this word used the same way again in Romans 8:32, when Paul again writes, "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over." Jesus was delivered over unto the most stringent judgment imaginable. Jesus suffered for our sins upon the cross and came under the full force of the holy wrath of God. He was abandoned by the Father upon the cross and only the damned in hell know what He experienced.
This is precisely the same verb, paradidomi, that Paul uses in Romans 1:24 when he writes, “Therefore, God gave them over.” Those who repeatedly reject God are in danger of being sentenced to the most severe judgment. They are perilously close to suffering divine abandonment because they, first, have abandoned Him. It is soul-threatening – and possibly damning – for any person to reject the knowledge of God. Everyone is held accountable by God for the truth that is revealed. When a person defiantly rejects the knowledge of God, he may cross the line and be given over unto divine judgment.
So emphatic is Paul about this divine abandonment of persistent sinners that he repeats these sobering words three times in these five verses (verses 24, 26, 28). After first saying “God gave them over” (verse 24), Paul again says a second time, “For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions” (verse 26). Then the apostle writes a third time, “Just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over” (verse 28). In rapid-fire succession, we see this truth reinforced three times. It is impossible to miss the devastating force of this three-fold repetition.
Sending a Deluding Influence
This divine abandonment of impenitent sinners is not an isolated truth is taught only in this passage. Paul describes this same divine judgment in 2 Thessalonians 2:11, “For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false.” The word “deluding” (energeia) really means ‘a working of error, a straying to a wrong opinion, to be led into error.’ We ask, who is sending this deluding influence? Who is causing someone to believe a lie? Is this Satan causing men to believe what is false? Are these demons causing the unbelief? The sobering fact is that sending this deluding influence is God Himself. This teaches the knowledge of God that a person has becomes deluded, because God sends a deceiving influence so that they will believe what is false. This divine activity causes them to believe what is false. Being forsaken by God causes these unbelievers to plunge deeper into unbelief, causing them to believe a damning lie. By this startling verse, we learn that God is the primary cause that they believe what is false.
To the church in Thessalonica, Pail explains why God gives them over. It is, “in order that they may be judged” (2 Thessalonians 1:12). Being turned over to their sin is the judgment of God. It is when He sends this deluding influence.
Why does God judge them? The answer is, because they "did not believe the truth." When they had the truth about God, they blatantly rejected it. Because they turned away from the knowledge of God, there came the point when He gave them a shove in the direction they had already taken. God sent this heart-hardening influence that causes them to believe the lies of the devil. This is not against their will, but according to it. Jesus explains this when He says, “whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him” (Matthew 13:12). Or “So take care how you listen…and whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has shall be taken away from him (Luke 8:18). In other words, if a person does not act upon the truth when it is made known to him, he is in danger of it being removed from him.
Taking Pleasure in Wickedness
Returning to Romans, we discover that these who did not believe the truth, instead, “took pleasure in wickedness” (verse 24). When a person does not believe the truth, they will take pleasure in wickedness. Because they rejected the light, God will cause them to grope in the darkness. Their refusal of the truth turns them over to greater wickedness. There is no neutral ground here. Regarding one’s relationship to God and the truth, there is no middle ground with the knowledge of God. If a person rejects the light of truth, he will be given over to the darkness of sin. Because he rejects the light, God will push him further into the blackness of lies and lawlessness.
When Wisdom Refuses to Answer
We see this same truth in the opening chapter of Proverbs with the teaching of Solomon. When God, through His wisdom, calls out to those passing by, many people foolishly reject its appeal. At a later time, they will call out to God and His wisdom, but He will refuse to heed their call. Wisdom rebukes these people, saying:
Because I called and you refused, I stretched out my hand and no one paid attention; and you neglected all my counsel and did not want my reproof; I will also laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your dread comes, when your dread comes like a storm and your calamity comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you. Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but they will not find me, because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord. They would not accept my counsel, they spurned all my reproof. So they shall eat of the fruit of their own way and be satiated with their own devices (Proverbs 1:24-31).
This stresses how critically important it is that whenever wisdom calls to us, we embrace it. If a person deliberately denies the knowledge of God for an extended time, He will turn this one over to even deeper, darker sin. Such a person will never see the light again.
II. The Abandonment Described (1:24b)
Paul advances his argument, stating that God gave them over “in the lust of their heart to impurity” (1:24). The "lust" (epithumia) that grips them is a strong word that describes strong cravings for the sin that is forbidden. “Lust” refers to the vile passions that are bound up in their depraved heart. The prophet writes, “The heart is deceitful above all else and desperately wicked. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). The unconverted heart is sinful beyond any human comprehension, wicked beyond man’s imagination.
When Paul says that God abandoned them “in the lust of their hearts to impurity,” he means that they are going from bad to worse. The “lust” in their heart leads to “impurity.” They are descending lower and lower, from one level of wickedness to a deeper involvement in impurity. Such a person finds himself on the slippery slope of immorality, plummeting downward to baser forms of impurity. When God gives them over, He sends them into yet deeper sins of defilement.
This “impurity” (akatharsia) is a general word that speaks of all kinds of immorality in profligate living. It is used in 1 Thessalonians 4:7, where Paul says, "For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity but for sanctification." In this larger context, “impurity” refers to “sexual immorality” (verse 3). This word “impurity” is also found in Galatians 5:19, “Now, the deeds of the flesh are evident,” which include a list naming “immorality, impurity, sensuality,” and many others. “Immorality” is a broad word that includes every category of sexual deviation committed by mankind. It encompasses every unlawful sexual perversion that is outside of the husband-wife relationship. It includes every filthy sexual act, from pornography to adultery, bestiality, and those things improper to mention. These physical debaucheries are the wicked deeds of the flesh. When a person rejects God, he is set on a course in life that spirals downward, leading to the next word in this list, “sensuality” (aselgeia), indicating wanton fleshly, sinful desires.
The Bible teaches that any society that rejects God is devolving downward into baser sins. Left to itself, no culture is evolving upward to a higher level of morality. By its rejection of God, every society is being flushed down the toilet into a foul cesspool of iniquity.
These who reject the knowledge of God find themselves wallowing in lower forms of immoral filth. Whenever any society or nation rejects the knowledge of God, it descends into unrestrained sexual immorality. Whenever a religious group or church denomination choses a course that rejects the clear teaching of God’s word, it will eventually tolerate and even endorse immorality. This will even be true of the lifestyle of its own pastors and membership. That group will be like a dump truck, barreling down a hill without any brakes. The runaway truck picks up speed as it plummets down the hill, until it crashes at the bottom, where it empties its trash on the landscape. So it is with any people who reject the truth of God. They will be abandoned by god and given over to lower and lower immoral filth.
Paul specifies the result, “so that their bodies would be dishonored among them” (verse 24). This word “dishonored” describes all kinds of degrading sexual acts committed in their bodies. Paul designates sexual sin as being in a special category unto itself. It is a self-inflicted destruction that does harm to one’s own body. Concerning immorality, he states elsewhere, “Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body” (1 Corinthians 6:18). Describing sexual activity outside of marriage, the Bible asks, “Can a man take a fire into his bosom and be not burned?” (Proverbs 6:27). This question is rhetorical, anticipating a negative answer. The one who commits sexual sin is playing with a consuming fire. All sexual sin is a self-damaging sin and leaves a permanent scar.
III. The abandonment explained (1:25)
Next, Paul clarifies why God is against such sinners. He writes, “for they exchanged the truth of God for a lie” (verse 25). This means they once had the truth of God made known to them. But they cast it aside and instead believed a lie. Consequently, they “worshipped and served the creature” (verse 25). This restates what Paul wrote earlier, that they “exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures” (verse 23). How could anyone end up in such a degrading place? It is because they rejected the knowledge of God when it was made known to them. They find themselves groping in increased darkness, grasping for anything to worship. Many worship their own body. Others worship their possessions. Still others worship their career. But they worship an idol, something or someone other than God.
What is an idol? It may be something cut out of wood or stone that is worshiped. But an idol can also be anything that a person loves more than God, fears more than Him, or serves more than Him. It is anything that is more important than God. An idol is not necessarily something that is intrinsically evil. An idol can be something that is good in itself. An idol can be something as noble as a job or a bank account. It can be a girlfriend, a wife, or a hobby. It is anything that a person pursues, prizes, or is preoccupied with more than God. The Bible says, “Little children, guard yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21). Earlier, the apostle has written, “Do not love the world, nor the things in the world” (1 John 2:15).
Everyone worships something. When people reject the knowledge of God, they are going to give their most cherished affections and chief allegiance to something else. Whatever that something is, it becomes an idol of their own making, whether crafted with their hands or their minds. Whatever a person worships is what he will serve. Tell me what a person worships, and I will tell you where he is giving his time and investing his resources. Where a person’s heart is determines what he is going to serve. An idol causes an individual to serve the creature rather than the Creator.
“God is Blessed Forever”
Amid this heavy section on judgment, the apostle suddenly expresses a celebration of praise: “The Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen” (verse 25). That God is “blessed forever” (verse 25), the idea is, “Blessed be God.” This word "blessed," comes from a Greek word (eulogetos) from which we derive the English word ‘eulogy.’ This literally means ‘to say a good word.’ Here, “blessed” is synonymous with praise to God. As Paul considers the judgment he has escaped, he sounds forth a good word about God, who must be praised.
Paul cannot mention God without bursting forth into praise for Him. In the midst of this condemning passage, the mention of the Creator causes Paul to declare his praise for Him. This may seem an odd place to record this celebration, but Paul cannot withhold his adjuration. He cannot postpone declaring the greatness of God to a later doxology. He gives his adoration for God. In this dark section on condemnation, Paul bursts forth into this declaration of worship to God. There is no time or place when our praise for God is inappropriate.
Praise to God should be offered "forever" (aion). This word literally means it must be given to ‘an unbroken age,’ or ‘throughout the ages to come.’ That is, there should never be an end to the praise that we give to God. Paul punctuates this call for eternal praise by saying, "Amen." The word "amen" (amen) means, ‘it is so’ or ‘it is true.’ “Amen” is a strong affirmation that God is blessed in Himself. Further, Paul is not backing off of what he said in verses 24-25. There is no apology for these strong words, only his hearty “amen.” He is saying “amen” to every hard truth he has taught in this section. Paul loves all that God is and all that He does. This includes the unleashing of judgment, for which he must resound in praise for Him.
III. The abandonment intensified (1:26-27)
Paul continues building his case when he says, “For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions.” The word "degrading" (atimia) means that which is ‘disgraceful, dishonoring, shameful, vial, depraved.’ It describes the fomenting foul lust in a person’s heart when they are abandoned by God. What do these evil passions produce? Paul begins with the women: “For their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural.” The natural function would be for these women to marry a man and bear children. It would be for them to have an intimate sexual relationship with their own husband and produce a family. That is the way God designed them to be. But these women, who are abandoned by God, “exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural.” This is a bizarre trade off to the extreme.
When a woman has degrading passions for another woman, this is contrary to God’s design. Any lesbian activity is a blatant violation of the divine plan. It is because they reject the knowledge of God that they commit this sin. They have rejected the knowledge of God and have exchanged the truth for a lie. Consequently, God gives these women over to desire other women. They have swapped the created order of God for a lie. Therefore, God will see to it that they trade their natural desire for men for an unnatural desire for women. Because they have exchanged the truth for a lie, God will cause them to exchange the natural function for an abnormal function – a woman desiring another woman. The rejection of the knowledge of God inevitably leads to grosser sexual sins. But this abandonment by God does not stop there.
Paul continues to trace this descent downward into further sexual sins. He adds, “and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error” (verse 27). Regarding the male gender, the natural function is for a man to marry a woman and have a sexual relationship with her that produces offspring. But here, those who are abandoned by God have abandoned the natural attraction for the opposite gender. They have desires for other men. This desertion by God occurs because they rejected God. The root is unbelief, the fruit is this depraved sin.
Tragically, Paul writes that they “burned in their desire for one another, men with men committing indecent acts” (verse 27). This divine judgment leads to an increased desire for the same sex. This attraction rages in an unquenchable “desire.” This “desire” (orexis) means ‘an excitement of the mind’ that creates sensual fantasies in their lustful imaginations. This drive leads to forbidden appetites for other men. Consequently, this produces “men with men committing indecent acts.” The word "indecent" (aschemosune) means ‘shameless’ or ‘unseemly.’ This enticing appeal is the inevitable result of rejecting God.
Paul concludes by saying, they will be “receiving in their own person the due penalty of their error” (verse 27). The just penalty of their sin is eternal damnation. That is, they will be consigned to the fires of hell forever. The apostle states elsewhere that no homosexual will enter the kingdom of heaven: “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals…will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). The burning desire of men for other men will lead to the burning of their soul and body in hell forever.
There is no politically correct spin to put on this. The Bible addresses it most clearly. This strong teaching is diametrically contrary to what we most often hear today. This teaching by Paul is a long way from, "Smile, God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life." What Paul teaches could not be any further away from today’s popular teaching, especially in mainline, liberal churches.
Application: So What?
So what is the application for these verses? I want to give you several thoughts. Then we will open it up for discussion.
Truth Revealed Increases Accountability
First, every one of us must be careful that we act upon the truth when it is made known to us. We must obey the truth whenever it is made known to us. We must not have a head full of knowledge, but fail to live it with our lives. The mere possession of knowledge is not going to get us anywhere God wants us to be. We must obey the truth that is revealed to us. To know the truth but not act upon it will increase our condemnation. It would be better not to know the truth, than to know the truth and reject it.
There are degrees of punishment in hell. Eternal torment will not be the same for everyone. The more truth a person knows, the greater his accountability to God. As believers, we will never go to hell, being eternally secure in Christ. But there is a principle here that God holds us responsible for the truth revealed to us. The point is clear, the greater the truth entrusted to us, the greater our responsibility to believe and live it (Luke 12:48).
The Bible says, “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren. Knowing as such we shall incur a stricter judgment” (James 3:1). There is a stricter judgment for those who know more truth than for those who know less truth. If you are not going to live the truth, it would be better to attend a liberal church that does not even preach the truth than for you to go to a Bible-teaching, Bible-preaching church and not live the truth. For the lost person, if you are going to go to hell, go to hell from Africa. Do not go to hell from Dallas, Texas with a strong gospel witness because it is going to be so much hotter. Jesus repeatedly said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Luke 14:35). It is critically important that every one of us respond to the truth whenever it is made known to us. This begins with each one of us individually.
Truth Revealed Increases Sin
Second, the result of rejecting the knowledge of God leads to sexual perversions. Do not think that these deep, dark sins against one’s own body appear out of thin air. Do not think it is the result of bad DNA. It is crystal clear from this text that sexual perversions of the grossest order are the result of the rejection of the knowledge of God.
Men, we must guard our minds and our hearts. We must fight to remain pure. We cannot flirt with allowing our eyes and hearts to go where they must not go. We must refuse to look at pornography or watch whatever. We are fools to do this. We might as well be playing with twenty rattlesnakes in our den, than to swing open a door and allow this kind of an influence to come into our life. Let us not kid ourselves. This sin starts with apathy towards the truth. Sometimes it is not necessarily the rejection.
We are believers, but lukewarmness, apathy, or spiritual coldness is going to take you somewhere you do not want to go. Opening our lives to these things would be like living in the country and leaving the front door wide open all night. Who knows what all animals and you are going to wake up with in the morning. When I went to sleep last night, the last thing I did was double-lock the front door and put the security code on. When you reject the truth, you are opening your mind up to whatever the world is going to dump into it.
Truth Received Requires Grace
Third, any conversion to Christ is a miracle of sovereign grace. Do you see what a supernatural thing it is for someone to be saved out of sin? Any sinner who is converted to Christ is like a brand plucked from the fire. It is only by the irresistible grace of God that any of us are converted. No sinner is in a neutral state. Every sinner is somewhere on the slippery slope. You may not have been given the push yet and been given over like this, but you are on the slippery slope. You are going down. You are going away from God.
It is extraordinary, divine intervention when God reaches in and converts someone. This text almost makes you think, “Can anyone be saved?” It is only by sovereign grace. It is a big deal that you are saved, even if you grew up in the church.
Truth Learned Requires Witnessing
Fourth, there must be a sense of urgency in our evangelism. As those who are saved, we cannot sit back in apathy. People's hearts are being hardened, and hardened, and more hardened. They are drifting, and drifting, and further drifting. They are plunging down deeper and deeper. We must reach people with the gospel now. We cannot be passive. We cannot sit back. Because they are picking up speed in their downward descent away from God.
However God can use you, wherever God can use you, you must reach out to others for Christ. This is like an intervention we have seen on television, where a family member comes into a den, and all of the sudden there are 20 other family members in the room. They say, "Dad, we have got to say something to you," and the whole family has this intervention. We need some interventions in people's lives that say, "Dad, you are going to hell." My friend, my business partner, "You are gambling your soul into hell." It is getting worse and worse, the more they are rejecting God. There comes a point, as you can see, where they are no longer just drifting with the current. God gives them a shove in that direction.
Truth Embraced Increases Worship
Fifth, we must worship God based upon what we know of God. Our theology must ignite our doxology. Our revelation of God must produce our adoration of Him. The word of God must inspire our worship of Him. Even in the midst of this passage on total depravity, radical corruption, and the sinfulness of man, Paul immediately bursts into praise – and so must we.
If you are riding in the car heading to your next business appointment, you need to praise God. If you are sitting at your desk, you need to praise God. Throughout the day, you need to give glory to God. That is what we see Paul doing.
The other time he does this is kind of interesting. In Romans 9:5, after Paul has just said in verse 2, “I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart.” Verse 3, “I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my kinsman.” In other words, he is saying, "I am willing to go to hell if that would mean they go to heaven." I ought to tell you, I have not gotten to that point yet. I am happy to go to heaven. If you want to come, fine. If not, that is your deal. I am going to heaven. Paul is so burdened for his fellow Jews that he says, "I could wish myself accursed," meaning damned.
Then at the end of verse 5, in the midst of this intense, dramatic section, as he is heading into “Jacob I loved, Esau I hated,” and the Potter and His right over the clay to make vessels of wrath prepared for destruction and vessels of mercy prepared for glory, in the midst of this towering chapter, at the end of verse 5, he does it again. “Christ…who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.” Even in the midst of this, he praises God. How much more so should you and I be praising God throughout the day?
Truth Revealed Shows Reality
Sixth, this is the only explanation for what is going on in our world around us. We are living in the midst of a society that can only be described by what we see in Romans 1. This is right where we live today. We do not have to go to another city to experience this. We live in the midst of it. There is an obvious relevancy to this passage that is more up-to-date than tomorrow's newspaper. This should sober us to the reality of what we are seeing take place all around us.
How can they ordain to ministry those living in open sexual sin? They rejected the Bible long ago. They rejected the virgin birth long ago. They rejected the bodily resurrection long ago. They rejected the exclusivity of salvation in Christ long ago. They rejected the deity of Christ long ago. Those were the greater sins. This is where those sins lead a person. They ordain lesbians and homosexuals. It is God giving a people over in judgment to their own sin.
In our next study, we will pick up at verse 28. There is one more “God gave them over.” This is a bad laundry list, and it is right where we are as a country. That is right where we are as a people. And this, what I have just been talking about, this is where a lot of denominations are. This is where a lot of churches are.
I would like to open up now for comment, feedback, or thoughts. This is a weighty matter, especially in our culture today.
Audience: Raising kids in this world where you are seeing this happen, is challenging. What a responsibility I have to live as Paul did and bless the Lord, sharing the love of Jesus with them day in and day out. Whether they are watching the puberty video this week in fifth grade, to whatever else, it is coming. It is different and challenging.
Dr. Lawson: We cannot lose sight of the fact of how degrading it is and how unnatural it is because we are being desensitized.
Audience: You know, something that has to come to our minds and our hearts is a sense of thankfulness. Because the difference between these people and us is, as you were saying, that God chose us and rejected others. We should have eternally grateful hearts because we are no different than them.
Dr. Lawson: That is a great point, and that needed to be said. I am glad you said it. This should really humble us that we are not a part of this abandonment. We are not one of these dead fish floating down the stream. God has had mercy on us. He did an intervention with us.
Audience: How do we look upon these evangelistically, how do we look at those that are actually sitting in judgment? Their lives are actually a result of judgment?
Dr. Lawson: There should be a sense of urgency that we reach them with the gospel, because they are under judgment, but they have not yet entered into the far greater judgment. While there is time and while there is opportunity, we must plead with them to be saved. There must be love in our hearts. Genuine, authentic, God-given, Christ-centered, Spirit-produced love. Not adding to condemnation – vengeance belongs to God – we are to reach out in love. The most loving thing that we can possibly do is share the gospel with people who are entangled in this.
This is so hard. The wind blows where it wills. God is long-suffering and so patient. We do not know where this line in the sand is with God when He gives over, after He has been pleading, inviting, calling, and summoning. Even within the larger contexts, this falls heavy on some, but not on all across the spectrum. God's hand comes down stronger on some than others. Though in the end, as the end of verse 27 says, there will be a just penalty for the error of their way.
Audience: Steve, I think, you alluded to it, but in 1 Corinthians 6:11, there is a good comfort for that, “and such were some of you.” Though we may not be able to identify personally with some of this, if you get down to Romans 1:29, every single person in this room can identify with something in that list.
“And such were some of us.” That is the slogan of everybody that has been redeemed. It gives me great hope knowing that when you see somebody in the midst of a far-off lifestyle, they are those whom God is plucking out. But they have to hear the gospel. It goes back to what you said. We have to be fervent with the gospel, and bold with the gospel, and consistently give them the gospel.
Dr. Lawson: And we have to be bridge building. Our national tendency might not be that, but by the grace of God, we have to be bridge building. Reaching out in the name of Christ to show love, to show patience. Thank you for saying that. It is so true. “And such were some of you.” This list at the end of the chapter, which we looked at last time. We are all experts in gossip. We are professionals in gossip.
Audience: About that illustration of God delivering them over – what you are saying in the translation of that word is not only letting them flow with the current, but pushing them off. As you encounter people that are living a lifestyle like that, it gives us a little foundation to say, "Look, you are really not choosing that. The Lord is pushing. The Lord is letting you do that. He is even paving the way for you to do it because you have rejected Him."
Dr. Lawson: Yes, He is pushing. It is a visitation of divine judgment. It is a chilling thought. It is a humbling, sobering thought. But there it is, and it is in chapter 1.
I am loving this study and what it is doing in my own heart. My own heart greatly needs these truths. These truths are being deeply embedded in my heart and soul, and I pray that they are being deeply embedded in your heart and soul. That you will be more Christ-like and more godly as a result of this. Thank you so much for all your feedback and the way you support this. Let's pray.
Father in heaven, thank You for this time this morning. There is a sense of reverence and awe in our hearts as we have looked at these verses. There is no glee in our hearts and there is no apathy. We are moved by what we see here, and we are humbled and affected by what we see here. We praise You that You have chosen us for Yourself. That You have pulled us out of the cesspool of this world, that we would be pursuing holiness this day. It is so counterintuitive to what we see here, and we know it is only a work of Your grace that You have done within us. So we come this day asking that You give us further instruction, even as we meditate on these verses throughout the day and the week. Thank you for these men. In Christ's name, amen.