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. (Romans 1:24-25; ESV)
In our last lesson we noticed that we have exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images of the things in this world. We have exchanged the real God for worshiping ourselves and our desires. Paul is going to finish this chapter by describing the consequences of this exchange.
Notice what God does. “Therefore, God gave them up….” Paul says this three times, first here in verse 24, also in verse 26, and in verse 28. What does Paul mean that God gave us up? To help us understand, we need to notice Psalm 81 where we see the same teaching occur.
11 “But my people did not listen to my voice; Israel would not submit to me. 12 So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts, to follow their own counsels. 13 Oh, that my people would listen to me, that Israel would walk in my ways! 14 I would soon subdue their enemies and turn my hand against their foes. (Psalm 81:11-14; ESV)
Notice that God gave Israel over to their own wishes so that they could follow their stubborn hearts. He gave them over to follow their own wisdom and own ways. God does not force us to obey him. He will let us go our own way. You can blaze whatever trail you like. You do things, “your way.” God says, “Do what you want! I am not going to stop you!” God will let us experience all that there is in life and the full consequences of our sins. Adding Romans 1:24, God will give you over in the lusts of your heart to impurity. You can plunge yourself in the deepest of sexual sins and God is not going to stop you. You can just dig deeper and deeper into lust, pornography, promiscuity, adultery, and homosexuality. You don’t want to serve God, God will not keep you with him.
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. (ESV)
In verses 26-27 we see that Paul is specifically pointing to sexual sins. We plunge ourselves into a debased mind when God is not the center of our lives. These sins are a worship problem and it is important to identify these sins for what they are. Often we try to overcome sins by simple redirection and willpower. Sometimes this works but often times it does not. What we need to pay greater attention to is that the problem is worship. Look at this point again in verse 21, “They did not honor him as God or give thanks to him.” I think this is important information for our fight against Satan. We can try to fight temptations alone. We can try to “white knuckle” through our sins. But the answer to fighting sin is to worship God. We must stop worshiping our lusts and desires. We need to honor God as God and we need to give thanks to God. Sin, particularly sexual sins as Paul identifies, is the outworking of our rejection of God and our failure to honor him and give thanks to him in our lives. God is good medicine for many of our disorders and addictions. We need to honestly consider if God is no longer center because sinfulness quickly comes when God is not worshiped in our lives.
Another observation needs to be made from this section. I don’t know if there is not a clearer way for God to condemn homosexual behavior and activity. Please notice that all homosexual activity is condemned, not just certain kinds. Many try to read into this text that this condemnation is only against promiscuous homosexual activity. But that is simply not what the text says. The basis of the condemnation should help us see this to be the case. Paul says that all homosexual activity is contrary to the created order.
Homosexual activity is called dishonorable passions. Further, such activity is called “contrary to nature.” Homosexual activity is the exchanging of what is natural relations to what is not natural. Verse 27 is quite clear. Men gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another. Men left what is natural and ordained by God to follow their own passions. Homosexual activity is the committing of shameless acts, according to Paul. Therefore, they are deserving of judgment for their error.
We should not assume that all Christians understand that homosexual activity of all kinds is squarely condemned by God as following shameless passions, exchanging natural relations for unnatural, and deserving of receiving a penalty for their error. A couple years ago the Episcopalian Church not only accepted as members those who practice homosexuality, but have also allowed them to be preachers and leaders in their denomination. Last month another denomination followed suit. The Lutheran Church, more specifically the ELCA, has done the same, not only accepting as members those who practice homosexuality, but also allowing them to be preachers and leaders. This is not going to stop here. More and more people who claim to follow Jesus are going to follow suit. We must be warned and understand that homosexuality is becoming socially acceptable. We cannot leave the truth of the scriptures to be accepted by society. God says it is wrong and we must help people see that they need to worship God as the center of their lives and not their passions and lusts.
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 decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. (ESV)
Verse 28 has a word play that is lost in English translation that I will reconstruct here. “Since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to an unfit mind.” This is the third time that Paul points out that God gives people over to their sinfulness. God will not make you serve him. If you cannot see that it is right and fit to worship God, then you will left in your unrighteous, unfit mind.
Look at the wickedness that mounts when we fail to honor God and give thanks to him! An unfit mind becomes the source of inappropriate deeds. Paul’s view of sin continues to interesting. Paul does not describe sin as the breaking of arbitrary divine rules. Rather, sin is pictured as committing deeds that are unfit for humans to perform. People who are not honoring God are people who will be overflowing with wickedness. There is not a middle ground according to Paul. Either we honor, worship, and thank God or this will be the result far down the road.
Verse 31 is unique because the four sins are an alliteration and rhyme in Greek. The Greek reads, asynetous, asynthetous, astorgous, and aneleemonas (practice speaking these Greek words with Accordance). The HCSB does a good job with the alliteration part: “undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, and unmerciful.” The NIV does a good job with the rhyming part: “senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless.”
Verse 32 then caps off the problem. People know that these things are wrong. They are fully aware of God’s decree. It is not like we do not know that these things were wrong. No one says that they had no idea murder was wrong. God’s decree is that those who practice such things deserve death. Let there be no mistake — we are out of fellowship with God, separated from God, and deserving the severest judgment for doing these things.
There is one more problem: these people not only practice these things, which is bad enough, but applaud others for doing what they are doing. It is not enough to plunge their own lives into ruin, but they are going to try to get you to participate with them. Why? So that they will feel better about themselves. Sin does not seem so condemning when we can convince others to do the same thing with us. People are going to try to take you down the wrong road. You will find plenty of friends applauding your wicked lifestyle. But just know that God has given you up to your depraved, unfit mind. You are foolish, not wise, in your decision.
- God will let you go your own way.
- God must be the center of our lives.
- Our vices, disorders, and sinfulness are the result of not honoring or thanking God.