St Paul shows us very clearly in this chapter why the world is in such a mess. We will follow his line of thought as he explains the situation in these verses in Romans 1:17-32. He shows us that humans are in revolt against their Creator. They rejected His revelation of Himself in creation. 1:17-20. They failed to acknowledge Him as Creator and as their provider. Their attitude of rejection led to outward expressions of rejection. However such sin has consequences. We see that their sin led to them having futile minds, darkened hearts and foolishness in the sight of God. They began to make wrong choices. Paul described it as exchanging or replacing God’s values and substituting their own. There were three main exchanges in their rebellion against God.
i). The First Exchange. IDOLATRY. (Replacing God by idols.) Rom 1:23 (they) exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. God’s response was this. Rom 1:24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonouring of their bodies among themselves. He handed them over, allowing them to do what they wanted to do. What happened was physical degradation.
ii). The Second Exchange. FALSE RELIGION. (Worshipping the God-given creation instead of the Creator Himself.) Rom 1:25 … they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. God’s response? Rom 1:26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonourable passions. They wanted to live in this way. God allowed them to do so. Paul goes on to tell us in the following verses what form those passions took.
iii). The Third Exchange. HOMOSEXUALITY. (Humans rejecting the God-created order for human relationships and substituting their own.) For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; Rom 1:27 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. God’s response? (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. Humans failed to acknowledge God’s right to dictate human behaviour as their Creator. They rejected what He wanted of His creatures in the sexual sphere and substituted their own desires springing from debased minds. The word “debased” is a very strong word in the different translations. It is translated as “worthless”, “reprobate”, “depraved”. The rebellion is, after all, the incredible situation of creatures rebelling against their Creator!
Paul continues listing the consequences of rebellion against God as he closes the chapter. He shows the wide expanse of human sin in addition to the idolatry, false religion and homosexuality he has just mentioned. Humans are “filled with” all manner of unrighteousness, and are “full of” characteristics forbidden in many of the 10 Commandments. The list continues as humans are seen as haters of God and disobedient to parents instead of being those who love God and honour their parents as commanded in the Decalogue. They are seen as not being loving towards their fellow humans either, as seen in their gossip, slander and insolence. Moreover their problem is seen in their exalting of self in their haughtiness and boasting and in their personal pursuit of evil.
As though to sum up the case against humans in revolt against God, Paul says humans are the opposite of what God wanted them to be. He does this by using four Greek words denoting fine character, and placing an “a” at the beginning of a word to give the opposite meaning. Instead of being wise, faithful, loving and merciful they are foolish, faithless, heartless and ruthless.
Humans are guilty, writes Paul. Doubly guilty! They know that those who commit the sins he has outlined are seen by God to be deserving of death. Yet they still go ahead and do them! Not only that, but they are doubly guilty in that they approve, and even applaud others who commit those same sins. No wonder Paul could write in a later chapter, Rom 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Every human is in the same boat. They have all sinned in one way or another. But praise God that they can be cleansed, forgiven and transformed to become new creatures in Him.
In our next article we will look at these verses a bit more closely to see where those involved today in idolatry, false religion, homosexuality and the vast span of other human sins, stand before God.
Blog No.124. Jim Holbeck. Posted on Monday 24th June 2013