Series on Romans, II The Gospel and Man’s Need, B The Punishment, Text: 1:22-32, Title: Abandoned and Forsaken

Introduction

The Apostle has just informed us that in spite of the cacophony of data that the eternal and almighty God is there, we in our stubborn surrender to the tyranny of the urgent and the false and fictitious deceptions of this present evil age, walk in darkness. Now we discover the result of that darkness in a devastating, disgusting, and deplorable description of humankind which is the worst in all of literature. It reveals our true nature much as a biopsy may reveal the existence of a malignancy. Someone has said that the reason history repeats itself is that people were not listening the first time. Historians and philosophers have told us that societies do not evolve. They follow a downward path from freedom and glory to corruption, and then barbarism and collapse.  We have seen it in the past and we see it happening now. Yet we foolishly believe the liars that tell us that we are getting better. Where God is rejected, terrible things must follow and they have. We see first the perilous exchange and then the perverse practice.

I The Perilous Exchange

We read of the exchange in verses 22-25, Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.  Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. The first result of our folly is that of idolatry and in ancient times almost all idolatry was associated with reproduction and sexual impurity. Ancient idolatrous cults celebrated fertility in all aspects of their existence. It is a curious and sinful perversion of God’s original creation mandate to be fruitful and multiply. Like all perversions it led to an accursed existence rather than a blessed one. Stark passages in the Old Testament describe the folly of idolatry. Isaiah several times parodies the idols of Babylon. In 40:18-20 we read, To whom, then, will you compare God? What image will you compare him to? As for an idol, a craftsman casts it, and a goldsmith overlays it with gold and fashions silver chains for it. A man too poor to present such an offering selects wood that will not rot. He looks for a skilled craftsman to set up an idol that will not topple. In 44:9-11 God says to Israel,  All who make idols are nothing, and the things they treasure are worthless. Those who would speak up for them are blind; they are ignorant, to their own shame. Who shapes a god and casts an idol, which can profit him nothing? He and his kind will be put to shame; craftsmen are nothing but men. Let them all come together and take their stand; they will be brought down to terror and infamy, and in verses 15-19 the Lord describes the utter folly of idols made of wood, It is man’s fuel for burning; some of it he takes and warms himself, he kindles a fire and bakes bread. But he also fashions a god and worships it; he makes an idol and bows down to it. Half of the wood he burns in the fire; over it he prepares his meal, he roasts his meat and eats his fill. He also warms himself and says, “Ah! I am warm; I see the fire.”  From the rest he makes a god, his idol; he bows down to it and worships. He prays to it and says, “Save me; you are my god.” They know nothing, they understand nothing; their eyes are plastered over so they cannot see, and their minds closed so they cannot understand. No one stops to think, no one has the knowledge or understanding to say, “Half of it I used for fuel; I even baked bread over its coals, I roasted meat and I ate. Shall I make a detestable thing from what is left? Shall I bow down to a block of wood?” There are many other passages, but I will add only one more, Psalm 115:4-8, speaking of the Gentile nations says, But their idols are silver and gold, made by the hands of men. They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but they cannot see; they have ears, but cannot hear, noses, but they cannot smell;  they have hands, but cannot feel, feet, but they cannot walk; nor can they utter a sound with their throats. Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them. Of course in the New Testament era, the cruder forms of idolatry were passing in the great centers of civilization, but the more refined forms remain to this day. Men still worship substitutes for the living God. In fact  consider the present popular philosophy that It does not matter which God you worship because they are all the same with different names; just so long as you worship something. This is blatant idolatry. God’s name is Jahweh and if you do not worship the God of the Bible then your God is as dead as any idol of wood and stone. Now there is a second effect of our blindness and it is perverse practice.

II Perverse Practice


This is where we really see the abandonment in verses, 24-31, Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.  Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. In our politically correct society it is considered a very bad thing to speak as Paul does here. It borders on a hate crime. That shows how far we have come from the truth. Twice in this section we read that God has given sinful mankind up or over to its own devices and the result is disastrous. We must note that the prevailing theme in Paul’s description of depravity is sexual sin, lust, and perversion. Although we must not miss the fact that the long catalog of sin includes every kind of transgression including ones which we might erroneously identify as fairly innocuous such as envy, slander and gossip. Nevertheless, the extent which sexual sins have overtaken our own society may be seen as a barometer of its decadence. Consider three things regarding this infamous catalog of man’s total depravity.

A Unmitigated


We notice first that this catalog of the intensity and diversity of human corruption is unmitigated and unrelieved. There is nothing good you can say about fallen sinners or their society. Paul says they filled with every kind of wickedness, and they are full of malice. This means that there is no room for righteousness because they are full of evil. If the glass is full to the brim then you cannot add anything to it. Relative good we see around us, but real good we cannot see because the hearts of men are deceitful above all things and desperately wicked and they are filled with wickedness.

B Unfulfilling

Licentious behavior was rampant in Roman society as it is on ours. Rather than condemn homosexuality and adultery we find ways to approve them as personal choices. Even adulterers can find some dimwitted scientist top say that they can’t help themselves; it’s in their genes. Courts and legislators may redefine marriage or their definition of appropriate sexual conduct any way they wish, but that will not make them right in the sight of God. The heart and soul of the problem is set before us in this Scripture, as Paul declares, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. Now the most profitable, the most successful, and the fastest growing industry in our land is pornography and all the associated sinful conduct. The reason for this is obvious. It is unsatisfying and unfulfilling so sinners want more and more. At least a glutton reaches the point where he cannot eat anymore, but the desire for perversion is unending.

C Unrepentant

In the last verse, 32, we see the hardness of sinful mankind, Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. There is of course a decided advantage to allowing people to go un-condemned for reprehensible conduct. It leaves the way open for us to do the same things. It’s a kind of “You’re OK, I’m OK” philosophy. There is no room for repentance in a fallen world because we can explain everything in human conduct by psychiatric theories. Man, both in Paul’s world and ours, is the measure of all things, and the last thing we want is to bring God or His law into the discussion. This, however, will not change the righteous decree of death.

Conclusion

Paul has not brought this scathing indictment, this catalog of the wickedness of sinful mankind before us because he relishes in it or revels in it. Actually he detests it. But if we are to appreciate the glorious truths of our salvation by grace that are set forth in this letter, then we must realize how bad the problem is. We must see the gravity and hopelessness of our situation. We must be shut up to every other alternative except Jesus Christ because He is the only answer, the only Savior, the only hope.