We are beginning a section tonight that begins with Romans 1:18 and will extend all the way to Romans 3:20. This section is Paul’s indictment of all mankind, both Jew and Gentile. Before we can really grasp the beauty of the light of Christ in salvation, we have to examine the dark backdrop behind that light. Before we can be saved, we have to understand our great need for salvation. This is what this section is all about.
Francis Schaeffer stated that “until recently, the book of Romans was studied in American law schools to teach students the art of presenting an argument.” This was especially true of the section that we are about to begin tonight. Paul is like an attorney arguing before the bar against a defendant. Who is the defendant? Well, we’re going to find out...it’s us!
Read Romans 1:18 - 32
Connection between Romans 1:17 and Romans 1:18
Vs. 17 - the righteousness of God is revealed through the gospel
Vs. 18 - the wrath of God is revealed against all unrighteousness
What is the “wrath of God?” (SLIDE)
John Stott - "The wrath of God...is almost totally different from human anger. It does not mean that God loses his temper, flies into a rage, or is ever malicious, spiteful or vindictive. The alternative to ‘wrath’ is not ‘love’ but ‘neutrality’ in the moral conflict. And God is not neutral. On the contrary, his wrath is his holy hostility to evil, his refusal to condone it or come to terms with it, his just judgment upon it."
So God’s wrath is His holy hostility to evil. Notice that the text does not say that it will one day be revealed, but it is revealed. While we do know from elsewhere in scripture that there will be a final day of God’s wrath, this indicates an ongoing revelation of God’s wrath.
What is God’s wrath revealed against? “All ungodliness and unrighteousness of men…
The Greek word translated “ungodliness” has to do with hostility “against God.” The Greek word translated “unrighteousness” has to do with injustice or unrighteousness of heart and life “against men.” So God has hostility to those who are hostile to him and to His creation...that is, mankind. Why is he hostile to them? Because they “suppress the truth in unrighteousness.”
Stott…”It is not just that they do wrong, though they know better. It is that they have made a decision... to live for themselves, rather than for God and others, and therefore deliberately stifle any truth which challenges their self-centeredness.”
This naturally brings up the question...what truth is it that men (and here he seems to mean all men) suppress? You can’t suppress something that you don’t have in the first place, can you?
This is explained in vs. 19. 20.
Before we get into these verses, let’s talk about revelation. There is such a thing as “gospel revelation.” That’s what Paul was talking about in vs. 16 and 17. The gospel through the Holy Spirit reveals to us “the righteousness of God.” Obviously that’s not the kind of revelation he’s talking about in vs. 19 and 20. Here he is talking to us about “general revelation.” That is, this is that which is revealed to all mankind. Notice in verse 19 it says it is “evident within them” and verse 20 “His invisible attributes...have been clearly seen.” i.e. they have been revealed.
Vs. 19 tells us that there are certain things that are known about God that all men know innately. It is evident to them. It is within them. This is why, no matter how isolated a culture, you will find men worship some kind of higher power. There is an innate knowledge of God in men...not a saving knowledge, but a knowledge that we simply couldn’t have gotten here on our own. Men have a conscience. Though marred by sin, there is a sense of right and wrong, of justice and injustice in all men. Man did not create man. I remember reading the autobiography of a missionary of John Paton, a missionary to the islands of the South Pacific. He went to an island that had been isolated for 1800 years from the gospel. No white man had ever been there. Yet, he found me worshipping all kinds of strange gods. They have an innate knowledge of God.
Vs. 20 tells us of another kind of general revelation that works together with the human conscience. This verse tells us that since the world was created, God’s invisible attributes...have been clearly seen by men. How can men see God’s invisible attributes? They can see them and understand them (although imperfectly) through what God has made. All of creation testifies to the existence of a Creator. Psalm 19:1 says “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands…”
Looking into a telescope (from “The Case for A Creator” by Lee Strobel)
One of the most striking discoveries of modern science has been that the laws and constants of physics unexpectedly conspire in an extraordinary way to make the universe habitable for life. For instance, said physicist-philosopher Robin Collins, gravity is fine-tuned to one part in a hundred million billion billion billion billion billion.
The cosmological constant, which represents the energy density of space, is as precise as throwing a dart from space and hitting a bull's-eye just a trillionth of a trillionth of an inch in diameter on Earth. One expert said there are more than 30 physical or cosmological parameters that require precise calibration in order to produce a universe that can sustain life.
"If the universe had not been made with the most exacting precision, we could never have come into existence," said Harvard-educated astrophysicist John A. O'Keefe of NASA. "It is my view that these circumstances indicate the universe was created for man to live in."
Now...let’s look through a microscope (also from The Case for a Creator)
The six feet of DNA coiled inside every one of our body's one hundred trillion cells contain a four-letter chemical alphabet that spells out precise assembly instructions for all the proteins from which our bodies are made. Cambridge-educated Stephen Meyer demonstrated that no hypothesis has come close to explaining how information got into biological matter by naturalistic means.
On the contrary, he said that whenever we find a sequential arrangement that's complex and corresponds to an independent pattern or function such as books and computer code, this kind of information is always the product of intelligence.
"Information is the hallmark of a mind," Meyer said. "And purely from the evidence of genetics and biology, we can infer the existence of a mind that's far greater than our own — a conscious, purposeful, rational, intelligent designer who's amazingly creative."
So, what do men do with such overwhelming evidence of God’s eternal power and divine nature? As we have already noted, they suppress the truth...both the truth in their own consciences and the truth in creation. Yet, because of this general revelation which is available to all men, vs. 20 says that “they are without excuse.”
This tells me that there is sufficient revelation available both within men and in the creation around men to acknowledge God. I don’t believe that there has ever been nor ever will be a man or woman who sincerely sought after God that did not find Him, however imperfect their knowledge might be. It doesn’t mean that they know all about God. Certainly, anyone before Christ would have had no opportunity to know the full light of the knowledge of the gospel. No one will ever go to hell because they had no opportunity. No one will ever stand before God at the day of judgement and be able to say, “I never had a chance to know You.”
Yet, the evidence is that the overwhelming majority of men down through the ages have rejected God. They have “suppressed the truth” that resides even down in their very souls. Vs. 21 - 23 describes how this happens. From here to the end of the chapter we see a downward spiral. Once men reject God, there is nowhere to go but down. Vs. 21 tells us that though they knew God, they didn’t honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but instead they became futile in their speculations (“their thinking became futile” NIV) and “their foolish heart was darkened.” (Futile here means “to make empty, vain, foolish.”) Verse 22 goes on to say that though “professing to be wise, they became fools.” (AMP “professing to be smart, they made simpletons of themselves.”) So it was then, so it is now. Men today have become more adept than the ancients at making fools of themselves. Anyone that says that man made himself...that man came from nothing...is a fool!
Vs. 23 shows us the results of the rejection of God. Notice the word “exchanged.” This is going to be used by Paul to describe each step downward in this de-evolutionary process. Because men hate God, they “exchange” His glory for images. Images of men, birds, beasts, and reptiles. So, when man rejects God, the first thing he does is find a replacement for God. This is where most of the world’s religions have come from. We want an alternative to the true God, man says, so he worships something other than God. Worship is inbuilt in men. It is something he has to do. Every man and every woman worships something. Bob Dylan wrote the song, “You Gotta Serve Somebody.” How true that is! Man makes a terrible bargain when he trades true worship for idol worship...yet he does it all the time.
But, you might say, we don’t worship idols today! We don’t worship birds, animals, and crawling creatures like Paul described that men did in that day. Well, some men still do. However, in our sophisticated 21st century society, we have “evolved” from that, haven’t we? Actually, all we’ve done is found other things to worship. Here is a very abbreviated list of things that we worship today...entertainment, sports, movie stars, nature, food, family, sex...No, we don’t worship birds and four-footed animals...we worship things like Cardinals, Cubs, Colts, and Pacers (whatever that is!). But, we don’t worship those things, you might say! We don’t bow down to them! Well, whatever you spend your time on the most, whatever you think about when you don’t have to think about anything...that’s what you worship. Worship means “worth-ship”. Whatever you attribute worth to above God is what you worship.
Notice that in verse 23 he says that we exchange the “incorruptible God” for these corruptible idols. The inevitable result of man-made religion is that we become corrupted. Verse 24 describes the next step downward. “God gave them over” (we’re going to see that phrase repeated several times as we continue downward) “in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them.” Once we turn from God, God lets us get what we want. Yet “gives us over”. The original means “to give into the hands of another.” This is certainly not God’s perfect will...but it is something He permits. If we want to wallow in the pigpen, He will let us.
Vs. 25 has another exchange to explain why God gives us over to the lusts of our own heart. We exchange the truth of God for a lie, and worship and serve the creature instead of the Creator. This gets to the bottom of this idolatry. All idolatry is ultimately man worship. We become our own gods!
God’s judgment on the people’s idolatry was to give them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity. The history of the world confirms that idolatry tends to immorality. A false image of God leads to a false understanding of sex...Illicit sex degrades people’s humanness; sex in marriage, as God intended, ennobles it.
Listen to how vs. 24-25 sound in “The Message”
So God said, in effect, “If that’s what you want, that’s what you get.” It wasn’t long before they were living in a pigpen, smeared with filth, filthy inside and out. And all this because they traded the true God for a fake god, and worshiped the god they made instead of the God who made them—the God we bless, the God who blesses us. Oh, yes!
What is this pigpen that he’s talking about. When he says in verse 24 “God gave them over in the lusts of their own hearts to impurity,” he is talking about sexual impurity. Each one of these steps I have seen in this country in my own lifetime. This began to happen about 50 years ago...in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Young people began to throw off all restraint. “God is dead” and “if it feels good, do it” walked hand in hand. Since then, sexual promiscuity has become “baked in” to our society. What was once considered “shacking up” is now no big deal. In our society, you can live with someone of the opposite sex without marriage, having babies with them, and be considered an honorable member of society...even be an upstanding church member in many churches. It used to be called “fornication.” We don’t use that word anymore. It just seems too harsh. Instead of husband or wife, we now have companions. Divorce rates doubled between 1965 and 1980, then leveled off and eventually went down some. Why did they go down? Not because people had began to embrace the values of the Bible! It was because people just stopped getting married. What was then wrong is now right. What was down is now up...or so they say.
What does Paul say is the next step to this “downward spiral” of society. Look at vs. 26-27. God “gives them over” again...this time to homosexual lifestyles. Notice again that word “exchanged” in verse 26. Their “women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural.” Men had their own exchange, abandoning the natural function of a woman and buring with desire for one another. Wow! How politically incorrect was Paul!
(Reading this, it is almost as if some architects of society read Romans 1 and decided to use this as a blueprint for the way they would take society!)
So, Paul says, after sexual promiscuity spirals upwards and the sanctity of marriage spirals downward, the homosexual lifestyle with then become front and center. Isn’t that exactly what we see happening in our society...and even around the world?
Every part of our society...except the evangelical church...has conspired to make what was once abhorrent to be celebrated. Homosexuality has been for millennia considered deviant behavior. That is because it is. I just have to be blunt here. Male bodies were not biologically designed to have sexual intercourse with male bodies. Nor are female bodies designed to have intercourse with female bodies. That isn’t a homophobic statement. It’s just biology. When you do something that is against nature, their are bound to be consequences, and that is certainly the case.
National Institute of Health:
LGBT youth are more likely to engage in high-risk sexual behaviors leading to an increased incidence of STDs. The rates of gonorrhea, chlamydia, and HIV are twice as higher (sic) in sexually minority youth, as in heterosexual men . According to the Dane County Youth Assessment Surveys (2008-2009), multiple factors accounted for unsafe sexual behaviors in LGBT youth including earlier age of sexual encounter, increased number of known and anonymous sexual partners, lack of education on safe sex practices, ineffective use of condoms, and testing and perception of STDs acquisition...The Center for Disease Control and Prevention data in 2014 showed that gay and bisexual men accounted for 83% of the new diagnoses of HIV among males, aged 13 years and older. The gay men were also at an increased risk of various cancers including prostate, testicular, anal, and colon, which might be related to limited culturally sensitive screening services…
At the end of vs. 27, Paul states that those who persist in such behavior receive “in their own persons the due penalty of their errors.” Is Paul saying that God punishes gays with AIDS and other diseases. No, he is not. He is just saying that when you do something against nature, their are natural consequences. (BTW...This is true for heterosexual as well as homosexual activity. People who have sex within the confines of marriage don’t have to worry about STD’s and such like). This is also true of abusing our bodies by eating too much food or the wrong food. Does God punish people who eat too much with a far greater chance of diabetes than others? Does God punish smokers with lung cancer? No, when we do things that are harmful to the body, we must expect that the chances of having something bad happen in our body is much greater!
So...am I some homophobic pastor railing against homosexuals? No I am not. I love all people, including homosexual, lesbians, and transgender, or whatever categories they might have now. You should love them as well. I also love people who are promiscuous, who are obese, who are boastful, who are covetous, who are arrogant...Yet, that does not mean that I or you can condone behavior that is outside God’s perfect will.
Speaking of transgender, I noticed that about a week after the famous Supreme Court Obergefell decision in 2015 which required states to legalize homosexual “marriages”, we became inundated with articles and profiles about “transgendered” people. And it hasn’t let up since then. Now, anyone who feels like someone of the opposite sex should be considered the opposite sex...even if that someone is 3 years old!
(Slide of church sign)
(Charlize Theron 3-year-old son “transitioning” to a boy is now 7...talked to Dennis Prager about.)
(Read from article...online this morning...about Canadian Court ruling that parents can’t stop 14-year-old girl from taking male hormones. Parent would be guilty of “family violence” for calling her a girl or referring to her by her female name!)
This is heading our way at breakneck speed. Sadly enough, many people who call themselves Christians actively embrace this entire agenda, and actively try to chance conservative, Bible-believing Christians minds about this through all kinds of clever techniques.
(Read from article 4-29-19 USA Today by Oliver Thomas, retired Baptist pastor)
So, what happens next? Paul tells us in the last several verses of chapter 1. Because they do not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God “gave them over to a depraved mind.” The floodgates open as Paul lists all kinds of debased practices that flow out of man’s rejection of God. They are not only unrighteous, wicked, and greedy, but filled with those things. In the middle of this list is one thing that really sums it up...they are haters of God. Haven’t we seen this? Those who hate God and those who worship God are rapidly becoming a dominant force in our society. I would put those like this Baptist minister in this category. Not only do they do know that these things are against God and still do them, but they also “give hearty approval to those who practice them.”
(Article about “Minister” in Colorado who melted down virginity rings to make statue of female sex organ and awarded to Gloria Steinem).
Romans 1: 28-32 (Message)
Since they didn’t bother to acknowledge God, God quit bothering them and let them run loose. And then all hell broke loose: rampant evil, grabbing and grasping, vicious backstabbing. They made life hell on earth with their envy, wanton killing, bickering, and cheating. Look at them: mean-spirited, venomous, fork-tongued God-bashers. Bullies, swaggerers, insufferable windbags! They keep inventing new ways of wrecking lives. They ditch their parents when they get in the way. Stupid, slimy, cruel, cold-blooded. And it’s not as if they don’t know better. They know perfectly well they’re spitting in God’s face. And they don’t care—worse, they hand out prizes to those who do the worst things best!