In Romans 1, St Paul wrote of the rebellion of humans against their Creator. We saw that the first area of rebellion was in the area of humans replacing God with idols. The second area was human rebellion against God as Creator and their worshipping and serving the creation rather than the Creator. In this third section we now look at human rebellion against God’s purposes for sexual activity in His world.
In Romans 1:24-27 Paul declared that God had delivered or handed humans over to do what they wanted to do in the sexual sphere. The following is the translation from the Holman Christian Study Bible (HCSB). Notice the underlined words which we look at more closely later. (Rom 1:24) Therefore God delivered them over in the cravings of their hearts to sexual impurity, so that their bodies were degraded among themselves. 25) They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served something created instead of the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. 26) This is why God delivered them over to degrading passions. For even their females exchanged natural sexual intercourse for what is unnatural. 27) The males in the same way also left natural sexual intercourse with females and were inflamed in their lust for one another. Males committed shameless acts with males and received in their own persons the appropriate penalty for their perversion.
We notice in this passage a number of God-given value judgments placed on those who had rebelled against Him in this way.
God’s judgments on false sexual behaviour in verses 24-27
The first term used in verse 24 was that God had delivered them over to “sexual impurity” (akatharsia). The word is used in many places to denote sexual sin such as is underlined in the following verses. Rom 6:19 “just as you offered the parts of yourselves as slaves to moral impurity”; Gal 5:19, Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity; Eph 5:3 But sexual immorality and any impurity or greed should not even be heard of among you, as is proper for saints; Col 3:5 Therefore, put to death whatever in you is worldly: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry. Such impurity had to be repented of and not seen among believers. Paul recognised the need for the people in Corinth to repent of such behaviour, 2 Cor 12:21 I fear that … I will grieve for many who sinned before and have not repented of the uncleanness, sexual immorality, and promiscuity they practiced. Paul wrote that God desired a growing holiness or sanctification among His people, for He had not called them to impurity, I Thess 4:7, For God has not called us to impurity, but to sanctification. God’s purpose was purity in relationships, not uncleanness in His sight.
The second term was “degraded” in 1:24. “… so that their bodies were degraded among themselves.” This word, (atimazō) means to treat with contempt, to dishonour or to abuse. In this passage it refers to homosexual activity as treating the body with contempt or as an abuse of the God-given privilege of being sexual beings. Some understanding of the depth of the meaning of the word is seen in how Jesus described abhorrent behaviour towards Himself, as seen in John 8:48. The Jews said to Jesus, “Aren’t we right in saying that You’re a Samaritan and have a demon?” Jesus saw that as a dishonouring of Himself, “I do not have a demon, on the contrary, I honour My Father and you dishonour Me.” John 8:49. Dishonour is refusing to give someone or something its God-given value or using it for a wrong purpose.
The third termis “degrading passions” in verse 26, This is why God delivered them over to degrading passions. “Degrading” (atimia) is the noun version of the previous term (atimazo). It has the same meaning of dishonour or shame. The other part of the phrase “passions” (from pathos) is used only 3 times in the New Testament and always in a bad sense eg., Paul wrote about the things that needed to be put to death in believers for they were to have no place in the lives of the people of God. In Col 3:5 he used this word (pathos), translated here as “lust”, “Therefore, put to death whatever in you is worldly: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry. The seriousness of these sinful attitudes or practices in the sight of God is seen in the following verse Col 3:6 Because of these, God’s wrath comes on the disobedient. The latter reference to God’s wrath has a familiar connection in Romans 1 where Paul stated that God’s wrath has been revealed, Rom 1:18 For God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against all godlessness and unrighteousness of people who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. The remainder of Romans 1 continues on with this theme of the revelation of the wrath of God leading Him in judgment to hand over people to do their own will rather than doing His. (One of the dangers we will see with this “freedom” is that God will give us all the help we need to do His will. However if we choose to ignore His will and to seek to do our own, we will be “out on our own” until we come back to Him.)
The fourth term is in the same verse 27, “The males in the same way also left natural sexual intercourse with females and were inflamed in their ‘lust’ for one another”. This word (orexis) for “lust” is found only here in the New Testament. It implies strong desire out of control as the “inflamed” here (or the “burned” or “consumed” in other translations) indicates.
The fifth term is in verse 27, “The males in the same way also left natural sexual intercourse with females and were inflamed in their lust for one another. Males committed shameless acts with males.” The word for “shameless acts” is (aschēmosunē). It can refer to that which is uncomely, indecent or obscene (in the sight of God). It can also refer to the shame of nakedness as seen in Rev 16:15, “Look, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who is alert and remains clothed so that he may not go naked, and they see his shame.” Nakedness is appropriate for some relationships, but not for others in the sight of God.
The sixth term is also in verse 27, . …Males committed shameless acts with males and received in their own persons the appropriate penalty for their perversion, (planē). This word can mean a wandering around, an error, a deceit or a false way of acting. It is translated as “deceit” in Eph 4:14 Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit.” Also in 2Thess 2:3 “Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way. In 2Thess 2:11, it is rendered “delusion”, For this reason God sends them a strong delusion so that they will believe what is false.” The remaining occurrences in the New Testament in Jas 5:20, 2 Pet 2:8, 3:17, 1Jn 4:6 and Jude 1:11 are translated as “error”. Some folk are deceived into thinking that they are right when in fact they are error-ridden and deluded.
Summing up God’s value judgments on human sin. Romans 1:24-27
What is it that causes God (YHWH) to have such negative value judgments on humans in these verses? In simple terms it can be summarised as the following where the six terms we looked at above, are underlined below.
The general statement of God’s attitude in Rom 1:18. For God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against all godlessness and unrighteousness of people who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. God in His word then spelt out the implications of human sin in His sight in verses 24-27.
- God in His wrath delivered them over to do what they craved to do = sexual impurity = bodies were degraded. 1:24.
- God in His wrath delivered them over to degrading passions = their females exchanged natural sexual intercourse for what is unnatural. 1:25.
- God in His wrath delivered them over to degrading passions = the males in the same way also left natural sexual intercourse with females and were inflamed in their lust for one another = shameless acts with males = perversion.
God has revealed His attitudes to sexuality. He created humans to behave sexually in the way He purposed for them. These words in Genesis have stood for thousands of years as the Creator’s explanation for the origin and foundation of families. Marriage and families was God’s idea, Gen 1:27 So God created man in His own image; He created him in the image of God; He created them male and female. 28 God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every creature that crawls on the earth.” And in Gen 5:2 “He created them male and female. When they were created, He blessed them and called them man. “ And in Gen 2:24 Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh.
However when humans rebelled against their Creator (as every individual human has), many also rebelled against His God-given provision for sex. Instead of keeping it within the male-female relationship as He purposed in marriage, they extended it beyond that to male-male and female-female. The summary above shows God’s attitude to this departure. It is very difficult therefore to understand how people can call same-sex relations equal to (or some would say, preferable to ) male-female marriage when He uses such terms in His word as sexual impurity, degradation, degrading passions, lust, shameless acts, perversion to describe homosexual activity. It shows His consistency, for in the Old Testament as we have seen in Leviticus chapters 18 and 20, He described homosexual activity as an “abomination” and as “detestable” in His sight. In the New Testament we would expect no less from Him.
In the next article we will sum up this whole passage in Romans 1:17-32. It will bring some uncomfortable truths to us. It will show us that none of us can stand in judgment of others. All of us need to ask for His forgiveness for any and every sin we have ever committed. Not only that, but true repentance demands that we not only ask His forgiveness, but we also need to ask Him for the grace and help to never do those things again. Otherwise it is not true repentance. If there is no true repentance there can be no forgiveness at all. A challenging time awaits us as we deal with these things!
A PRAYER FOR HELP
Heavenly Father, we pray that we will come to know Your will through Your word, the Bible, so that we can live in a way pleasing to You. Show us what You dislike about our thinking and our behaviour so that we can turn to You for forgiveness and for help to be different. Help us to understand Your plan and purpose for the world regarding relationships, so that every relationship we have, may be according to Your will. We ask these things in Jesus’ name. AMEN.
Blog No.128. Jim Holbeck. Posted on Sunday 25th August 2013