God Gave Them Up
So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, the just shall live by faith.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; because that which may be known of God is manifested in them; for God has shown it unto them. For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: because that, when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful; but they became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things.
Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves: who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
And for this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: and likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust toward one another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves the recompense of the error that was due.
And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them up to a reprobate mind, to do those things that are not convenient; being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only to do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.
Father, as we look into Your word, a passage that is challenging, a passage that is convicting, we pray that You would, Lord, give us wisdom, that You would continue, by Your Spirit, to guide us into all truth, and teach us all things, that Lord, we would stand upon, firmly stand upon Your sure word, and that, Lord, with humility, we would be able to share these things that we see here with people we come in contact with, Lord, recognizing that that which is identified here in this passage as sin, is resident in every single one of our hearts, and Lord we recognize that we have received Your grace, and the only way in which we stand it by Your grace. And so remind us of that tonight, as we look at this passage, for we ask it in Jesus’ name. And all God’s people agreed, saying, “Amen.”
You can be seated.
Paul says, “I’m ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome, and I am not ashamed of the gospel.” In fact, not only was Paul not ashamed of the gospel, but in his letter to the church at Galatia, he proclaims that the only thing that he really boasts in is the cross of Christ, in Galatians 6, verse 14; because the gospel of Christ is the very power of God unto salvation to every one that believes. The gospel, and in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, Paul says, citing Habakkuk, chapter 2, “As it is written, the just shall live by faith.” Paul recounts in 1 Corinthians, chapter 15, where he succinctly states the gospel message, he says there, in the first few verses that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, that He was buried and He rose again the 3rd day, according to the scriptures, and that He was seen alive by above 500 witnesses. And because Jesus is alive, because He raised from the dead, He’s able to raise, to newness of life, those that come to Him by faith. That is the simple gospel message that Paul declared wherever he went; that God is able to bring us in to newness of life, to rescue us from sin and death. This was Paul’s boast; this is what he gloried in; this is what he boasted of. Although the message of the cross, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians, chapter 1, it’s foolishness to those who are perishing, Paul still proclaimed it boldly wherever he went; whether he was in a city like Lystra or Derbe or Antioch or on into Philippi, or Miletas or Berea, Thessalonica, Athens, Corinth, Ephesus, and wherever else Paul went, he preached the gospel boldly. He announced it to every single person that he could come in contact with, and he says, “I’m ready to preach it at Rome,” the center of the Roman empire, the capital of the Roman empire; Paul says, “I’m ready to come there, and to preach it among those who count it as foolishness, to preach it among those who will put someone to death for their proclamation of it.” Paul says, “I’m ready because I’m not ashamed.”
And I was thinking about this text again this week, and looking through the passage here in chapter 1, I started to just think about the, the question: why is that Paul was so passionate about the gospel? Why should we be so passionate about the gospel? In fact I almost feel a little foolish asking a question like that, because there’s so many answers that immediately come to mind when I ask the question: why was Paul so passionate about declaring the gospel? I mean, you could go through answers such as: well, because it’s true, or because God had commissioned us or sent us to do so, or because God’s love is displayed in the gospel, that God is compelled by His love, His very nature. The apostle John tells us in 1 John, that the very nature of God is love. And so, He is compelled by love to come down, and as a result of that, His love compels us who have received Him, by grace through faith, it compels us to speak forth the gospel. But, as I went through my mind, thinking about that question: why was Paul so passionate about the gospel, why was the gospel so very important to Paul? I started to think, well how does he answer that question? What does he say in answer to that question? And I think part of the answer, maybe not the whole answer, but part of it, is found in Romans, chapter 3, verse 10, so, if you would, turn in your Bibles just a couple chapters to the right, Romans, chapter 3, and look with me there beginning at verse 10. Notice what Paul says, he begins with these 4 words, “As it is written,” so he directs his readers back to that which was inspired of God in the old covenant, back to the Psalms, specifically, because the passage that Paul’s going to quote from is heavily from the Psalms, a little bit from the prophets, as well, but he says here, “As it is written, there is none righteous, no, not one.” He goes on, verse 11, “There is none that understands; there is none that seeks after God. They are all gone out of the way; they are together become unprofitable; there is none that does good, no, not one. Their throat is like an open tomb; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of venomous snakes, of asps, is under their lips; whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; destruction and misery are in their ways; and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.” So Paul, going back to the inspired word of God in the Old Testament, he says, “There are none righteous. There are none who are good, no, not one.” Humanity is full of cursing and bitterness, the psalmist declares. We know not the way of peace, the fear of God is absent, destruction and misery are before us. Why was Paul passionate about the preaching of the gospel, the declaration of the gospel? Why was he willing to be counted a fool for Christ’s sake? I suggest to you that part of the answer to that question is in God’s evaluation of humanity here, that Paul speaks of in Romans, chapter 3. It’s important that we recognize that when we read these verses, Romans 3:10-18, that this is not man’s opinion about man, this is God’s evaluation of fallen man. This is how God in heaven, when He looks at the condition of humanity, this is what He sees. There is none righteous, not even one. There’s none that does good; there’s none that seek after God. They’ve all gone away; they’ve all turned astray. God’s evaluation, as He looks down, is that there’s none that understands. “The way of peace is not before them, bitterness and misery is on their tongue, their feet are swift to shed blood.” That’s a pretty heavy evaluation that we have there, as God looks at the condition of humanity.
Now the problem with this, although this is God’s evaluation of humanity, the problem with this is that we don’t really believe this. We don’t really believe that there is none who seek after God. We have a hard time recognizing that there is no one that is righteous. We look out in the world today and we see 7 billion people who are on the face of the planet, and sometimes it’s hard for us to connect with God’s evaluation because we say, “Well there’s a lot of people in the world, and perhaps there must be somebody whose done it.” And a lot of times when we look at the world, we do see wickedness, we do see evil, we do see bad things in the world, but we view those things through a very external lens, meaning: that can’t possibly be us. And we have a hard time recognizing that humanity could be so depraved and so lost to the core in that way, and so we say, “Well, you know, humanity is maybe not all bad, they just, they do bad things.” And so, you know, maybe we might agree that there are some bad people, agreeing with God, but the whole of humanity, there’s no one righteous, no, not one? It’s a tough pill for us to swallow, because if we say this, then we’re counting ourselves in that; we’re saying, “Well, we’re not righteous.” And the reality is that every single one of us believe ourselves to be pretty good. And we look at the world and we say, “There’s a lot of good people, there’s a lot of people who do good things, there’s a lot of people who are spiritual, or maybe religious, and if they don’t have religion, they’re rational, and so they do pretty good things.” And yet God’s evaluation of humanity is that there is none who is righteous. So, it is a hard pill to swallow; so much so, in fact, that we have created something of an alternate reality in our time, where we believe ourselves to be inherently good. There are a lot of people who philosophically believe that, well, humanity is inherently good, that they’re born good, and it’s just the outward influences that cause them to do bad things. There are a lot of people in our own culture today that that’s their mindset, that’s their view – children are born good. Now my response to that a lot f times is: well, if you really believe that come and babysit my kids. Because that’s not entirely true. Or go sign up to be a part of the toddler ministry here at the church, and you’ll see very quickly that children are not inherently good. They’re like little devils wrapped up in angelic little beings; they look cute, but they’re not great, they’re still sinful, they’re still fallen. We all have a broken, sinful nature. And yet, there is a view in our world, and it’s not a new view, it’s been around for a long time. But the view is that the reason that people do bad things is not because they’re inherently bad, there’s not an evil core, even though that’s what the scriptures say, that we all have a heart that’s desperately wicked, but man’s evaluation is, no, what really forces a thief to be a thief is all the external influences around him; that thief is in poverty and they don’t have a lot of stuff, and so they see people that have more than enough stuff, and so they’re just compelled to steal because, you know, there needs to be some equality. There are people who believe that. But the scriptures reveal that that stealing, that taking what is not yours, it originates in the heart of man as covetousness, and that covetousness within the heart compels them to take what is not there’s. It’s not just an external influence upon them.
And so, one of the things that we see about the gospel, one of the aspects of God’s glorious gospel is that the gospel not only reveals God’s good news of salvation, but the gospel also is given by God to bring humanity back to a correct perspective of our collective lostness. So the gospel, it does show us the good news of God’s way of salvation, of God’s way of justifying sinners who are lost, but the gospel also brings humanity into a place of correct understanding, or recognition of our lostness; that we are in need of salvation. Why? Well, verse 18, Romans, chapter 1 says, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” Why does God want to bring humanity back to a correct recognition of their lostness, because there is coming a day, as we see here in this passage, where the wrath of God is going to be poured out upon all ungodliness and unrighteousness. God, knowing that that day will come, because of God’s perfect, holy character, that day must come; God, knowing that that day is appointed and will come, He wants to bring humanity into a place where they recognize their lostness, so that they will grab onto salvation. You see, the wrath of God is the vindication of God’s justice, and wrath will one day come, because God, by nature, is holy; God, by nature, is just. And so God will pour out His wrath, at an appointed time. We’re going to see next week, in Romans, chapter 2, verse 5, that there is a day of God’s judgment; and that those who continue walking in what we see here in verse 18, which is called ungodliness and unrighteousness, who suppress God’s truth through their wicked behavior, the wrath of God is being stored up for that day of wrath when it will be poured out, when it will come upon those who have not turned from their ungodliness. And so that day is coming, but we ask, “Well, who is that wrath going to be poured out upon.” Well Paul makes it very clear: upon all ungodliness. Ungodliness is irreverence for God; it’s disregarding Him; and that ungodliness is manifested, it’s shown forth or revealed in our lives through, what Paul calls unrighteousness. Unrighteousness is behavior that violates God’s perfect standard. Let me say that again – unrighteousness is behavior that violates God’s perfect standard. It stems from an ungodly heart, it’s produced by that. So any unrighteous behavior, sinful behavior, that we see in the world, it originates in the heart, and then it’s manifested in the life. But unrighteousness is that which goes against God’s perfect standard of what is right. And God’s perfect standard of what is right is His holy character. He is, by nature, holy, perfect. And so anything that goes against His righteous standard, His holy character, it is unrighteousness before God. Unrighteousness, that is sinful behavior, things that are against God, it holds back the truth of God. It suppresses the truth, is what Paul says here in verse 18.
Now, we have two problems with this, as I’ve just made this statement that Paul actually makes here in this passage: unrighteousness is that which violates God’s standard, and unrighteousness holds back God’s truth; we have two problems in our cultural mindset here today, that’s not new, but it’s problems that we’re confronted with. Number one, we live in a culture that disregards explicit standards of right and wrong. We live in a culture that disregards explicit standards of right and wrong. Secondly, we live in a culture that questions the reality of truth, that there is such a thing as true truth. Now, as I said, this isn’t new; 2,000 years ago, in the world in which Paul the apostle ministered, it was the same sort of thing. There were those who questioned whether or not there was such a thing as truth. During the time of Christ, there were those who questioned whether or not there is such a thing as true truth. Jesus, when He was on trial before Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea, He, in John 18, we’re told, stands before Pilate, and Pilate is questioning Him, and Jesus makes a comment about truth, and Pontius Pilate’s response, in verse 38 of John, chapter 18, is, “What is truth?” You see there was a view that was common among the Roman-minded citizens of the world at that time that there is no standard of truth. And it’s revealed in that question: What is truth? Now, unfortunately he didn’t give Jesus an opportunity to answer that. I believe Jesus would have had a great answer for it; it’s not recorded there because Pilate didn’t give an opportunity. But we live in an atmosphere, 2,000 years removed from that, that’s very similar. It hasn’t changed much. Or, as I’ve said before, in the 21st Century, we have reverted back to a 1st Century Roman mindset. Now a lot of times we have a hard time with that, because we look at the advancements in science and medicine and technology, and we say, “No, we’re so different than those people who lived 2,000 years ago.” But the reality is philosophically we’re very, very much the same. We have seen wonderful advancements in medicine and science and technology, and I would suggest that a lot of those advancements, they have their roots in the spread of the gospel, because the gospel releases the creative potential of humanity, because it reveals to us that God has created us in His image, and given us procreative ability. And so it unleashes creative potential. And so in the last 500 years especially, we’ve seen a marvelous spread and advancement of science, technology and medicine. But those things, although we’re progressed in those areas, advanced in those areas, our philosophical framework, or worldview is not unbelievably different from what was happening in the 1st Century Roman world. We live today, in 2012, in the Western world, in an atmosphere of relativistic pragmatic existentialism – relativistic pragmatic existentialism.
Now let me explain what that is. Relativism is the belief that concepts such as right and wrong, goodness and badness, truth and falsehood are not absolute, but they change from culture to culture, and situation to situation. So a relativistic mindset says that: well, you know it’s kind of a situational ethic; things change, truth changes based on the culture or the situation. And we all are confronted with this in our lives. You may even find yourself confronted with it this week when you gather together with family and friends for Thanksgiving, because you find yourself talking with someone, a co-worker, a friend, a family member, and you’re talking about what God has done in your life through the gospel, and what God is doing in you currently, and how He’s developing and changing and transforming and using you. And the person you’re talking with, who doesn’t believe in God, they say something to you like this, “I’m really glad you have that. I’m glad that you have your truth. I have my truth and you have your truth, and I’m so happy that you have that. It’s good that you have it.” That’s the relativistic mindset, worldview on display. Now obviously there’s many problems with that. Because the question is, is there a true standard of what is right? Is there a true standard of what is wrong? Now I suggest to you, if you’re interested in reading it, I suggest that you read the book Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis, because he does such a great job of exposing this reality, that there has to be a standard of truth, a set standard that’s been established. But we live in a culture that bucks against that, that believes all truths and all standards of right and wrong are really just subject to culture or changes. And so we see this today, where, in our culture here in America, it’s considered wrong, and I believe that it is wrong for a man to strike or beat his wife. And most of us would say, I hope, “Yes, we agree, that’s wrong.” And yet there are other cultures in the world that say, “No, it’s not wrong.” And so who’s to say, because your truth is your truth, and my truth is my truth; and so who’s to say, no, that is wrong? That’s relativism on display.
But not only do we live in a relativistic worldview, or atmosphere, but we live in a pragmatic atmosphere. Pragmatism is a philosophical view that truth or philosophy is evaluated in terms of how something works, what are the consequences of it? It can be summed up in this question, or this statement: if it works, it’s good. So pragmatism is the ruling thought that as long as it works for you it’s good; if it seems to make life worth living for you and gives meaning and purpose, then that’s perfect. That’s pragmatism.
Thirdly, not only do we live in a relativistic or pragmatic world, but we also live in an existential philosophical framework, and existentialism, it says that the universe has no intrinsic meaning or purpose, and so humanity needs to find meaning and purpose in their own way. In whatever they can find it, they should develop meaning and purpose for themselves, and the starting point of the philosophical thinking must be the experience of the individual. And so you are solely responsible for determining what your purpose is. That purpose isn’t given to you from on high, from the God who created you, but you need to figure out what your purpose is.
And all of these things can be wrapped up in the idea of a humanistic worldview, where human, we are the center of all reality, and we are the ones that establish what is good, bad, right, wrong, true, or false. That’s the world in which we live, and that’s the world in which Paul was ministering 2,000 years ago, among Romans throughout the Roman empire as well. And although we may not fully articulate or recognize our philosophical worldview, it overshadows every decision that we make. Every decision that we make, we filter through our worldview. The way that we approach life day in and day out is filtered through that worldview that we have, even though we may not recognize or articulate what our philosophy is.
Well what does all this matter, why is it a big deal? Well, as I mentioned, as a result of this philosophical framework, we do not recognize truth in the statement of Romans, chapter 3, verse 10, that says, “There is none righteous, no, not one.” And so Paul, knowing this, he formulates, or crafts this letter that’s addressing this, in such a way to bring his readers to a place of recognition of that truth. Those words, Romans chapter 3, verse 10, are the conclusion of this section that we’re going to be looking at over the next couple of weeks. Paul is leading his readers up to that point. But the denial of that, the denial of “there is none righteous, no, not one,” it places those who deny it in the precarious position of standing in the middle of the train tracks and emphatically rejecting that there is such a thing as a train, as it’s coming towards them. And the train, in this instance, is the wrath of God that is appointed, there is a day of wrath that is appointed. And so, when someone disregards that truth, “there is none righteous,” they’re standing on the train tracks of the wrath of God, and it’s coming towards them, but they’re emphatically denying, “There is no such thing as the train.” And it’s absolute foolishness.
So, what Paul does masterfully in these chapters, in these verses, he unfolds, to the different segments of society, the scriptures in such a way that it brings us to be confronted with those realities. Romans 3:10 – “It is written: ‘there is none righteous, no, not one.’” And then Romans 3:23 – “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” That’s where he’s leading us. And in this passage, beginning at verse 18 of Romans, chapter 1, and going through verse 9 of chapter 3, Paul addresses three groups of people, three groups of people. In verses 18 through 32 of chapter 1, he addresses the hedonist, which was the overwhelming majority in a city like Rome, or a city like Corinth. He’s speaking to the hedonist. The hedonist is the person who lives for passion, who lives for pleasure, who lives by no governing standard, so to speak, but just does whatever they want to do, because it feels good, because it seems good. They’ve established meaning and purpose for themselves; they live according to an existentialism, that’s the hedonist.
But then beginning at chapter 2, verse 1 through verse 16, he focuses in on the moralist; the person who has a certain set of standards, moral standards, that they seek to live by, and they judge others by those moral standards, and because they do them, they are right, and because others don’t do them, they are wrong. But that moral standard is established probably by themselves; maybe by some sort of code of ethics that’s been given to them, but they are righteous because they keep the moral standard of their lives, and they judge everybody else by that.
So, Paul speaks to the hedonist in chapter 1, verses 18 through 32; he speaks to the moralist in chapter 2, verses 1 through 16; and beginning at chapter 2, verse 17 through the beginning of chapter 3, he speaks to the super self-righteous, the super self-righteous. The one who follows a pre-described, or prescribed set of rules, laws governing. He speaks primarily to the Jewish individuals who would read this letter, and he says, all of us: the hedonist, the moralist, the self-righteous, all of us are guilty before God: “There is none righteous, no, not one. We have all fallen short of the glory of God.” This is what Paul is zeroing in on. And this is what the gospel does, it brings us to that place of confrontation, that we all have sinned. Before you can get to chapter 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 of Romans, which talk about justification by grace, which talk about sanctification by grace, before you get to passages that say, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus,” you have to start with bringing a person, wherever they are in the spectrum – the hedonist, the moralist, or the self-righteous – you have to bring all of them to the place of recognition, “I have sinned. I am unrighteous, and I cannot save myself, and I need God to do a work; I need God to demonstrate His love towards me, that while I am a sinner, Christ died for me,” Romans 5:8. “I need to recognize that although the wages of sin is death, the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus,” Romans 6:23. But before you can get to that, you have to go through the path of Romans 1, 2, and 3.
So he says, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” How has humanity come short of the glory of God? Look with me at verse 19 of Romans, chapter 1, “because that which may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it unto them. For the invisible things of Him, from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His (God’s) eternal power and Godhead, so that they (humanity) are without excuse.” Man has suppressed God’s truth, by his unrighteous, his sinful behavior. But God has revealed Himself to humanity in two ways that Paul identifies here in verses 19 and 20. God has made Himself known, but man has rejected it. How has God made it known? Well, first he says there in verse 19 that God has revealed Himself in humanity; He’s manifested understanding in us. The first way that Paul cites that God has revealed Himself to humanity is through the conscience. See, God created every human being with a hardwired moral code within them. This is what C.S. Lewis talks about it Mere Christianity. We all have this governing conscience that God has given to us. It’s the moral code of the moral lawgiver, God, at the base level, at the foundational level. It tells us, by this inner caution: don’t do that, or do that; don’t say that, or say that. Have you ever driven on the freeway, there driving down the 15 Freeway, and you see all the cars in front of you, just seems like thousands of cars in front of you driving at like 65, well, that never happens, right, driving at 85 miles per hour, and looking at this, have you ever had this thought go through your mind, it’s gone through my mind a number of times: it’s amazing that this works; that there are thousands of cars driving at 85 miles per hour, or more, these big steel boxes, that weigh 2,000 pounds, or more, and they’re all independently governed, and it works. You just go, “Phenomenal, it works.” Now occasionally it doesn’t work. Why? Because someone does not obey the prescribed rule, the law; so they do something they shouldn’t do and then you have a problem, and everything doesn’t work any more. Now we recognize that that law is given to us, we all go and learn how to drive, hopefully, and we learn the laws, the rules of the road, so that we can be governed. Well, God, to make sure that there aren’t any major cataclysmic accidents in life, has given to us, hardwired into us a moral code, a conscience. Now of course, from time to time, you meet people who say, “Well I don’t have that.” The reason a person does not have that conscience, is not because God didn’t give it to them, but because, as the scriptures say, they have seared their conscience as with a hot iron. You see, when you constantly war against your conscience, and every time your conscience says, “Don’t do this,” you do it, when you do that repeatedly, over and over and over again, you callous your conscience, to where you no longer have that sense that, “I shouldn’t do that.” That’s a scary place to be. Now, it’s not that God cannot transform that, because see, when a person comes to God for salvation, God gives them a new heart, upon which is written His Law, the scriptures say, and He transforms us by the renewing of our minds. But that person, without the transforming power of God, is in a really bad situation, really bad place. And so God has given to us a conscience to declare His word, His base level code for us, hardwired into us.
Not only has He given us a conscience, but Paul says in verse 20, that the invisible things of God, from the creation of the world, “are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that humanity is without excuse.” The second thing that God has given to humanity, beyond the conscience, is creation itself. You see, as the psalmist said, in Psalm 19, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the earth shows forth His handiwork. Day unto day they utter speech, night unto night they show forth knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard.” You see creation, among every people group, among every linguistic group, creation cries to humanity of the Creator. As Francis Schaeffer wrote, that famous title of one of his books: He (God) Is There and He Is Not Silent, God is there and He is not silent. Because as the psalmist said in Psalm 97: the heavens declare God’s righteousness. So it reveals God, He has revealed Himself through nature. Although He is independent of His creation, He is not in His creation and a part of His creation, He’s independent of it, but He has left His fingerprints on it. So that we can look at creation and see God, as revealed through His creation. It is reported that Napoleon Bonaparte was walking with a group of his generals one night, and they were talking about the existence of God, and as his generals, some of them saying that they did not believe in the existence of God, Napoleon Bonaparte looked up to the sky, the night sky, and it’s reported that he said, “Sirs, if you’re going to get rid of God, you need to have to get rid of those,” as he pointed to the stars. There’s a recognition there, that there is evidence. Bertrand Russell, counted as one of the great 20th Century atheistic philosophers, he was interviewed near the time of his death, he died in 1970, and the interviewer sat down with Bertrand Russell, and he said, “You have, you’ve professed throughout your entire life that there is no God, what if, what if when you die, you end up standing before God, what will you say to Him, how will you plea your case before Him?” And Bertrand Russell said, “I will tell Him He didn’t give me enough evidence, He didn’t give me enough evidence.”
You see for centuries early science was observing God in creation, recognizing the power of God, the awesomeness of God’s power and creative potential through creation. But of course we know that, especially in the last 200 years of scientific theory, there’s been a departure from that, and they’ve started with the presupposition that God is not. And so, beginning with that assumption, beginning with that presupposition that God is not, then you get off into all kinds of crazy ideas, and you have to fancifully explain how things came to be. There’s a lot of scientific support for the existence of a Creator, by just looking at creation. If I were to tell you that last night I was sitting in my living room and I was reading through this passage of scripture, and I heard a giant boom in my garage, and I went out there and this had just appeared on the floor in my garage, it just assembled itself together, and all the sensors that are involved in here, the multi-touch sensors that know where I’m touching on things that aren’t even really there or on the glass, but I’m touching, and it knows where it’s at; and then the little sensor that’s there, that when I bring it up to my ear, it knows to turn the screen off, so my face doesn’t touch the sensor of the screen and cause it to hang up the phone call, the sensors that know what orientation this is in when it moves around, the sensors that know where exactly on the earth it is, global positioning satellites telling where it is; it all just came to be, and all the engineering talent that went into the software to make it happen, that just happened. You would think I was insane if I told you, “It just happened.” And yet the brain that is between our ears is phenomenally more complex, hopefully, than this. And so you have to check your brain at the door to disregard that God created, engineered that. And yet we read in the Psalms, Psalm 14 and Psalm 53: The fool has said in his heart that there is no God. You have to become foolish to believe that He is not.
So notice what Paul says, verse 21 of Romans, chapter 1, “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were they thankful; but they became vain in their imaginations, their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became as fools, and they exchanged, or they changed, the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man, and birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things.” God has made Himself known to us through general revelations, through the conscience that He’s given to us by His grace, just His common grace, to all humanity, He’s given us a conscience that declares to us that there is a moral lawgiver who wrote that moral code in us. And then He’s given creation to us, that shows His creative power, it shows us that He is there, it shows us that He has awesome intellect, it shows us that He has phenomenal power, to be able to make what He has made out of nothing. So He’s revealed Himself to us through general revelation, but man, in his unrighteousness, has suppressed God’s truth, the truth that God is. That is the supreme truth, that God is. And so we suppress that truth. How do we do that? Well, He’s says, because when they knew God, they knew Him through seeing Him in creation, they said, “We don’t want God over us. We don’t want to glorify Him, esteem Him, nor do we want to be thankful to Him.” And so humanity made a volitional decision to cast off God’s restraints; and what happens when you do that? Well, Paul said, humanity became “vain in their imaginations,” the New Living Translation translates it this way, “They began to think up foolish ideas.” Why is that? Well for this very reason, Jesus, who is described as the Son of God, in the gospel of John, before He is revealed as the incarnate Son of God, He is revealed in John 1:1, as the Word of God; the Greek word that’s translated “The Word of God,” is the Greek word “logos,” from which we get our English word “logic,” logic in thought and understanding, it all comes from God. He is the source of all those things, He is the origin of all thought. And so when you say, “We want to be disconnected from Him, unmoored from Him, we don’t want anything to do with Him,” the only possible outcome is to become foolish in your thinking because you’ve disconnected from the source of logic, the source of reason and understanding and thought. Now we don’t want to admit that we’re fools, and so we have to profess that we’re wise. And we point to the advancement in science and technology and medicine, and say, “Look how awesome we are, look how amazing we are.” And all of that comes from God’s common grace, because He’s created us in His image; the Creator God made us like Him, in the sense that He gave us creative potential. The only fact that we see these advancements is because of Him, and we point to all those things and say, “It’s because of us,” but ultimately it’s because of Him.
And so we exchange, verse 23, “the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image.” Romans 3:23 says, “We have come short of the glory of God.” How have we come short of the glory of God? The explanation there is in Romans 1:23, “because we exchanged the glory of God for an image.” The departure from God, the departure from the one true God is not a wholesale departure from all deity, if you will. Because not only was humanity coded, hardwired with a conscience, but humanity was programmed by God to worship. We were coded with a conscience, but we were programmed to worship. And since we are programmed by God to worship, essentially we were created to be instruments of worship, and when we say, “We’re not going to glorify God, nor are we going to be thankful to Him,” meaning we’re not going to worship Him, we’re still going to worship something, because we were programmed to worship, it’s our default nature. And so, as soon as man disregards or rejects God, he will always revert to idolatry, he will always then have misplaced worship, and misplaced worship is idolatry. And so man rejects and unhinges from God, and he begins to worship and serve creation, the creature, four-footed beasts, and animals, and birds, and fish, and people; he starts to worship the creation and not the Creator. So what does God do, verse 24, “Wherefore,” because of this, “God also gave them up.” Now those words, “gave them up,” we’re going to see them three times repeated in the remaining verses of this passage. God gave them up, because they’ve disregarded and rejected Him, He “gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies with them, between themselves; who changed the truth of God into a lie, and they worshipped and served the creation more than the Creator, who was blessed forever. Amen.” Because humanity has reverted to idolatry, to worship creation and not the Creator, as a result of this, “God gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts.” What does it mean: He gave them up? The best way to explain it is to illustrate it like this: if you pour a glass of milk, and you leave it on the counter, and you walk away and you leave it there, especially if it’s warm, for a period of time, what happens to it? It spoils, right? Now I have three small kids, and they still drink their milk from sippy cups, and occasionally this happens, where there’s a little bit of milk left in the bottom of it, some of these, some of you know exactly what this is like, and they leave it somewhere, and sometimes it happens where it’s gotten kicked underneath the couch, where you don’t realize it’s there until, ugh, it starts to smell. And then there’s been a couple of times where it actually has leaked out, and it’s kind of stuck to our floor, and you pull it up and it’s kind of, it’s just disgusting. But that’s because we didn’t intervene, we didn’t do anything, we didn’t stop that process of spoiling. So, when it says here that God gave them up, the idea is that He didn’t intervene, so He just left them to their own vices. They have said, “We don’t want You, we reject You, we don’t want to glorify You, we don’t want to be thankful, worship You.” And so He leaves them to their vices, and when He does, because the heart to man is desperately wicked, the result of that, when God doesn’t intervene, the result is that they begin to move towards uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts; they begin to act on their wicked desires in their wicked heart. And in acting upon the wicked desires of their wicked hearts, they dishonor their own bodies between themselves. They’ve already dishonored God, by not worshipping Him, and so now when they’re left to their own vices, they begin to dishonor their own bodies.
Verse 26, the second “God gave them up,” “For this cause,” idolatry, “For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections.” That means He gives them over, He allows them to spoil, they’re no longer connected to Him, the source of all life. So they’re just going to spoil because they’re not connected to the vine, if you will. So He gives them up to dishonoring passions, He allows them to dishonor themselves by their wicked passions, vile affections. And Paul highlights, one, one of the vile affections here in this passage. Now he’s going to cite 23 more in a few verses, but here in verses 26 and 27, he highlights just one. He says, as they are given to their dishonoring passions, “for even their women,” he illustrates what a vile affection is, “their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature; likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of a woman, they burn passionately in lust towards one another; men with men working that which is unseemly, receiving in themselves the recompense of the error that was due.” So Paul says that when humanity disconnects from God and they are left to their own vile passions of their sinful heart, it leads toward sinful error, and one of the errors that he highlights is the error of homosexuality. Now it’s important to recognize, when looking at a text like this, that homosexuality in the 1st Century Roman world was not very abhorrent; it was a pretty common thing in 1st Century Roman life. Among the Greeks before them, it was a common thing, in fact sadly it was seen as a part of the upbringing of children. And so, although we look at it and say, “It’s abhorrent, it’s against God’s nature, it’s according to vile passion.” Well the reality is is that the idolatry in the heart, because all sin always begins in the heart, idolatry in the heart always ends in immorality; idolatry in the heart always ends in licentiousness, disconnecting and counting yourself having a license to do whatever pleases you. So when we see sinful behavior in the world, and like I said, Paul, he doesn’t exalt this as a greater sin than other sins, because he just counts it among 23 other sinful conditions in a few verses. But when we see sinful conditions in the world, it is an indication of a worship disorder. You see, the symptomatic sins of the world, all sinful behavior is symptomatic of a sinful heart; but those sinful symptoms are not that which destroys humanity or destroys a nation; those sinful symptoms are just the result, they’re just the bi-product of a worship disorder. So when we look at our world today, and we see sin that we count as being rampant, and just explosive, it’s because of idolatry. John Piper says it in a great way in the opening words of his book on missions, called Let The Nations Be Glad, he says, “Missions exist because worship doesn’t.” All sinful behavior in the world is a result of a worship disorder, misplaced worship. When you say, “We’re not going to glorify God nor are we going to be thankful to Him,” the default, the result is always going to be idolatry, which leads to immorality. Because God gave them up to their vile affections.
Verse 28, “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge,” third time, “God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things that are not convenient;” to do those things that are not helpful, is another way to read it. They did not want to retain the knowledge of God in their minds. Why? Humanity that disregards God, says, “We don’t want to glorify Him, we don’t want to be thankful to Him, we don’t want to worship Him,” they will always tend towards idolatry, which will always result in immorality, and when humanity is given to idolatry and immorality, they don’t want to be reminded of God because it brings conviction. And so they say, “I don’t want to retain God in my knowledge.” And yet the problem is that God has hardwired a knowledge of Him in us. And so humanity, in the midst of idolatry and immorality, says, “I want to get rid of anything that reminds me of God. So get rid of crosses on hilltops; get rid of the Ten Commandments in the public sphere; get the church, the people who believe in God, to just keep that inside the confines of their building. We don’t want that out there because we don’t want to be reminded of God, because it convicts us that we have said we don’t want to glorify Him or be thankful to Him.” And so when you try to wash, if you will, your mind that God has created and planted in us a recognition of Him, that He is there, when you try to remove that from your mind, the only alternative is to have a reprobate mind, that Paul says, to have a broken brain. And the result is to do things that are not helpful. What sort of things? Well look at verse 29, look at the list that Paul gives to us, these are the things that are not helpful, that are the result when God gives you up to a reprobate mind. Verse 29, these are the unhelpful things: “Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness: full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful.” Twenty-three of them, in addition to the 24th, which was homosexuality; these are just the symptoms of a worship disorder. So have you ever had anybody in your life break a vow, anybody, someone broke a vow to you? It’s a worship disorder. Have you ever seen disobedient children? It’s a worship disorder. Have you ever seen people who are unmerciful? It’s a worship disorder. People who are, they’re filled with maliciousness, where they’re actually planning or hoping for the pain of someone, because they don’t like them. It’s a worship disorder. When we see adultery, when we see fornication; it’s a worship disorder. We have said, “We’re not going to glorify Him, we’re not going to be thankful to Him, and so we’re going to default to idolatry,” because we’re created as instruments of worship. And what flows from that is immorality. But it’s all an indication of worship disorder. So, what makes things right? Correcting worship; replacing our affections in God; because when you worship Him, you place your affections in Him, it transforms your entire being. You can try to not be unrighteous, you can try to not be covetous, or malicious, or one who has envy, or who murders people in your heart; you can try to not be a backbiter through religious efforts, but the only way for those things to disappear is to re-place your worship back on God, and then those things go away.
And so Paul says, those who do these things, these 23, 24 things mentioned, he says, verse 32, “who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death.” Those who practice, it’s what that word “commit” means, those who practice such things are worthy of death. Paul says this same thing in Galatians, he says the same thing in 1 Corinthians, chapter 6. Now here’s the problem: if you’re in church, as you are, millions of Americans attend church, and so they would be counted, at least, as moralists, we’re going to talk to the moralist next week in chapter 2, maybe they would be counted as self-righteous, because they keep a standard. When we read a list like this, these 23 sinful behaviors here in this passage, when we read a list like this, the moralist, the self-righteous looks at that list and they look at all the people out in the world and they say, “Yes, those bad people are worthy of death. Wicked sinners going to hell.” So this kind of scripture, this kind of passage is dangerous, because the moralist, the self-righteous can take this and use this, “See, look at all those people, worthy of death.” Those who practice such things, they will be judged of God, and they’re worthy of death. So this passage, in the hands of the wrong kind of individual is dangerous. So Paul’s going to speak that. Look at chapter 2, verse 1, just quickly, this is kind of a preview of coming attractions, verse 1, “Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are that judges;” you’re judging those that are unrighteous, fornicators, wicked, covetous, malicious, “you are inexcusable, O man, you who judge; for wherein you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you judge, you that judge do the same things.” How so? Well, sin, visible sinful behavior always begins in the heart, and even the moralist, and even the self-righteous have a sinful heart. They may not practice or do the things that are listed in this verse, and so they feel really good because they say, “Well I don’t do that.” And yet Paul is going to show that even that person, because of their sinful heart, is condemned because there is none righteous, no, not one. So notice how Paul ends this passage in verse 32, because you’ll notice I only read part of it, he says, “We know the judgment of God, that those that commit such things, practice such things, they are worthy of death, not only that do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.” Now this is a challenging few words. There’s a lot of interpretations on the end of chapter 1, verse 32 of Romans. But probably the most common interpretation of these words, not only will judgment come upon those that do them, but those that have pleasure in them that do it, is this: you see the moralist, the person who doesn’t practice these sinful behaviors that are listed here, there were many of them in the 1st Century Roman world as well, they say, “Well I don’t murder,” and yet, 1st Century Romans were known for entertaining themselves by watching the murder of people in the coliseums by the gladiators. They didn’t themselves practice it, but they were a part of it by entertaining or taking pleasure in them that did. The Greeks and the Romans were known for their comedies, their tragedies, they were known for going to the theatres. Every single Roman ruin that you visit throughout the ancient world has a magnificent theatre; and they were known for their entertainment, and they would go and entertain themselves. And the lustful passions that were displayed before them, although maybe they didn’t partake of it, they were part of it, because they found pleasure in it. And finding pleasure in it revealed that that sin that they did not condone or they spoke against was resident in their own heart. They’re guilty of the same. Maybe they don’t practice it, but they’re guilty of the same. And so that concept is very challenging to us because we can sometimes sit in a moralist position, where we look at lists like that which is given here in Romans 1 or 1 Corinthians 6, we say, “Well, see, I’m not like that, I don’t do that, I’m okay, I’m righteous.” But the reality is we watch things or we feed ourselves with certain things that are taking pleasure in the unrighteousness that’s listed here in this passage. Now that’s not said to condemn us, but it’s said to bring us into the recognition of God’s evaluation, that it is true that there is no one righteous, no, not one. Because all of us, to lay hold of the gracious gift of salvation that is in Christ Jesus, we all must first recognize that we are counted among the “none righteous, no, not one.” And so Paul’s work here in these verses is not to condemn, it’s to reveal our guilt before a holy God; to prepare people for the wonders of grace and salvation that we’ll find in chapters 4 through 8. But you, see the gospel, it is not only the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ, it’s also the bad news of our complete lostness; and these two need to go together. And so a gospel proclamation that only focuses on the goodness and the love of God, to the exclusion of the justice and wrath of God is an unbalanced evangel; it’s an unbalanced declaration of the good news. And unfortunately, we live in a culture today that, largely in the Christian environment, has an unbalanced evangelism, because we highlight only the goodness and grace and love of God; all are true, but it can’t be to the exclusion of the whole counsel of God, that He is also just, and that He is also holy, and that there is an appointed day of His wrath that will come upon all ungodliness and unrighteousness. It’s important that we recognize this, because we want to be those to declare, as Paul does, the whole counsel of God. Because just as there was a church being established in that dark city of Rome, there is still a church that continues to be established in the darkness of this world, and the light shines brightest in the midst of the dark, and so we need to make sure that we expose darkness by light. Amen? Would to God that we’d be passionate about this, just as Paul was, because we know the wrath of God will one day be revealed upon all ungodliness and unrighteousness. That day will come. That’s a sobering reality, and it should compel us, it should constrain us to bring forth the word to those who are currently under the wrath of God, who are, Romans 2:5, “storing up for themselves wrath for the day of wrath.” It’s a sobering reality.
Father, we pray as we close tonight, we pray that You would keep us mindful of these things, that You’d help us, Lord, to recognize the importance of sharing Your whole counsel of Your word. Help us to be ready to give forth the fullness of Your word, to not hold back, to be ready to preach the gospel, as Paul was, because he was to ashamed of the gospel, because it is Your very power to bring salvation to everyone that believes. God work in us this week, even as we may have opportunities with family members and friends as we gather for the holiday, work in us to have a boldness to share the truth.