Scripture Text: Romans 1:18-32
So far in Romans chapter one, we have read about Paul’s call and passion to share the Gospel with the world. We have seen Paul’s description of the power of the Gospel to save people and make them righteous. This passage today marks a distinct shift in the tone of this letter. In fact, for the next few weeks, we will be reading a lot about God’s judgment against sin. Some folks do not want to hear this. Some think that preaching God’s judgement will run people off. I do not think so. If you have a disease, would you not want to know about it? You cannot fix what you do not acknowledge. There are plenty of other churches and some preachers on television that will tell you things like this: there is nothing wrong with you; God only loves you; you just need to do better. That is a lie! If I believe all of Scripture is God’s Word and is good for our righteousness and relationship with Him, I have to preach about God’s wrath.
To understand the “good news,” we must accept the bad news. We are sinners. We have sinned. We deserve God’s wrath and judgement. All people are under God’s wrath. But people do not want to hear that. People choose to deny God but the evidence is clear. God has revealed Himself to this world. One of the clearest proofs regarding the existence of God is creation itself.
Psalm 19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
People who say there is no God are deceiving themselves. One of my favorite things is timepieces. I love watches and clocks. I particularly love mechanical watches. Do you think people ever look at these beautiful timepieces and think to themselves, “That just happened; It wasn’t created; It just assembled itself.” People do not say things like that, so why would they look at the incredibly complex and wonderfully designed creation and say, “There is no God?” People want to suppress the truth. They do not want to believe in a God because they want to be god of their life. People do not want to be told what to do. If you do not believe that, just ask your spouse.
God is angry. Why? People reject Him. People reject the truth, even though it is clear to them. Although they know God, they do not worship Him. They became foolish in their thinking and this leads to more sin. When we reject God, our minds grow dark, we fall into a downward spiral of sin and there are consequences for this. There are consequences for doing things our way instead of His way. Before the plagues of Egypt came, Moses and Aaron went before Pharaoh and said, “God says to let His people go.” Pharaoh responded, “I do not know this God. Why should I listen to him? I will not let the Israelites go.” After rejecting God, Pharaoh went down a path of increasing hardness of his heart and further rejection that ultimately led to death and destruction. The problem is not that we do not know the truth. The problem is that when we know the truth, we ignore it. So yes, God’s wrath is upon us who exchange Him for sin.
A Foolish Exchange
Have you ever exchanged something and got something worse in return? One year, Gena and I exchanged our week of vacation at our usual place in Myrtle Beach, SC for another place in Williamsburg, VA. We had been to Myrtle Beach several times and wanted to try something else. What we found though was that the place we got in exchange was not what we expected. In fact, we could not even stay there because of some chemical they used to clean the room. We got a bad deal. The same goes for us when we exchange God for something else. God created us for His glory. He created us to have a relationship with Him. He also created us to enjoy Him forever and for us to find our greatest desire, our greatest fulfillment, in Him. He wants to give us abundant life, but we exchange that for the temporary and destructive nature of sin. God wants to give us a seven course meal with the best food and festive cloths, and we want to exchange all of that for some measly scraps from the table. It is a foolish exchange.
God has revealed Himself to His creation to the point that the evidence of Himself is irrefutable. We are “without excuse.” Mankind has no reason to deny Him. We choose to do it. We choose our own desires over God’s desires. We find all kinds of things to replace God in our lives. What things have you exchanged for God? Do you desire something or someone more than you desire God? The truth is that our hearts are idol factories. We are idolaters. If you do not think so, then ask yourself these questions:
What do you think you can’t live without?
Who do you think you can’t live without?
What priority in your life is greater than God?
In this passage, Paul described the foolishness of people rejecting God and choosing other things over Him. As a result, Paul mentioned three times, “God gave them up.” What does this mean? The same sense of the word is in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians.
1 Corinthians 5:5 …You are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.
When a church member is unrepentant and others have repeatedly confronted that person about his sin and he refuses to repent, the church ultimately must treat that person as an unbeliever — someone who is not part of the church. They will not enjoy the protection of church fellowship and accountability. They are left to their own devices.
God sometimes lets people have what they want. If they reject Him, He removes any divine restraints He has on them, both for their sinful actions and its consequence. We cannot blame God, though, for our situation when we have put ourselves in it. If we reject God and God’s will for us, we have no one else to blame for the destructive consequence it will bring. If you choose to text and drive and then get into a wreck, you cannot blame the phone company. If you choose to have relations with someone other than your spouse, you choose a path that leads to pain and suffering.
God Abandoned Them to Impure Desires
Instead of curbing people’s unrighteousness, God abandons people to their desires.
Romans 1:24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves…
This might sound harsh. Why would a loving God abandon us to sin? Think of a guardrail that protects you from danger. They have these around dangerous places, like on the side of a cliff or a mountaintop. If we ignore the guardrail we put ourselves in danger. It is our choice to do so, but we do it at our own peril. If we reject God, we put ourselves at risk and we will find ourselves in danger. Do you remember the Prodigal Son? He demanded his inheritance and freedom and left the protection of his father, only to later find himself destitute and at the point of death. When God removes the restraints and allows us to persist in sin, we will then find ourselves in great need of Him. Does life without God look like freedom to you? Take a closer look at it — you may find yourself enslaved to your own sin.
Why would sinful desires be a result of rejecting God? When we remove God and His standard for our lives, there is such a hole in our lives that nothing will stop us from trying to fill it. It is like a sinkhole that just keeps pulling things in around it. God created our bodies for us to use in God-honoring ways, but instead people pursue all sorts of sinful and unnatural desires. God created us to live in such a way that brings honor and glory to Him. This is mentioned all the way back to Adam and Eve, when God created a man and a woman to “become one” in the bounds of marriage. Any sexual relationship outside of a husband and a wife does not honor God. Paul got even more specific as we see the downward spiral of rejecting God and His standard.
God Abandoned Them to Unnatural Passions
Romans 1:26–27 26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another…
Some preachers do not want to preach about this. Some preachers seem to only want to preach about this. So, how shall we respond to this passage? We should respond by honoring God and the truth of His Word. God has revealed Himself to us and He has revealed the natural order of His creation. It is not God’s intended purpose for women to have sexual relations with other women. It is not God’s intended purpose for men to have sexual relations with other men. Now you may say, “But, we shouldn’t judge others.” Whose judging them? I am repeating what God has already said. We do not get to set the standard for life — only God can do that. He created us and He set the boundary for our lives. And it is for our good. For us to call out sin for what it is, is to reveal the truth that many try to suppress. How is it loving God to break His commandments and to ignore sin? How is it loving other people to let them continue in that sin when we know that God’s wrath is upon them? How is that love? It is not!
Do you know what is natural? Doing what God intended with His creation. It is natural for men and women to fall in love with each other, to commit to one another for life, to have children and to raise them in the fear of God. That is natural. It is natural for us to worship God alone, to have God as the center of our universe and not ourselves. That is how God intended things to be. Sin has perverted what is natural. Sin distorts God’s natural creation. God created us to love Him and to worship Him and to honor Him with our bodies. That is natural. Unfortunately, because of sin, we will not see a natural way of life until Jesus returns and takes us home to glory in Heaven.
God Abandoned Them to a Worthless Mind
Paul then reminded us that people do not acknowledge God, which results in more sin.
Romans 1:28 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.
God is not angry with just homosexuality. There are some one-issue Christians out there that try to preach against this sin or that sin. Christians really pervert the truth of God when we pick one sin as our banner of unrighteousness. Where are those people preaching against envy? Where are those people preaching against pride? Where are those people preaching against greed, deceit, gossip, and selfishness? Where are they? We cannot say other people are under God’s wrath for sinning without looking right back at ourselves and say, “I am also under the wrath of God.” We are full of all sorts of unrighteousness. We need to really need to understand this – God is angry at all sin! We are all under the wrath of God.
The cycle of sin does not stop with lustful desires, unnatural passions, and other sins. Rejecting God in favor of ourselves leads to further rebellion to God and to encouraging others to also sin. In the last verse here, Paul mentioned that people do not only want to engage in unrighteousness, they also want others to join with them. They want company for their sinfulness. And so, the unrighteous encourage more unrighteousness. There is a downward spiral of sin. People reject God, which leads to idol worship. They replace God with other things and people in their lives. This leads to more sin until finally, they not only sin, but also encourage others to do the same. Yes, God is angry!
What is Our Hope?
This passage does not paint a pretty picture for us. We are born into sin and from that nature we reject God in favor of our sin. We would rather do what we want to do than to follow God and His will for our lives. All of humanity needs a special intervention because we all desperately need help. But, what is the fix? What will save us from the wrath of God? The Gospel of God!
Romans 1:16 [The gospel] is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…
Only Jesus Christ can save us from God’s wrath. Later in the letter, Paul wrote that even though we are sinners, ungodly, even enemies of God, we can be saved from the wrath of God. Jesus Christ gave His life for you, He endured the wrath of God for you, so that by trusting in Him, you may be pardoned and have life. The Good News of Jesus Christ is that you do not have to live under the wrath of God anymore. You can be saved from it by believing in Jesus Christ. And if you have trusted in Jesus Christ for salvation, you have been commissioned to share the hope you have with others who are also under God’s wrath. The Gospel you have received is the Gospel you should share.
From the hymn “On Christ The Solid Rock”:
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness
On Christ the solid rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand
That is the hope we have to escape God wrath. Is that your hope?
This sermon was delivered at Good Hope Baptist Church in Wake Forest, NC. More information about Good Hope may be found at the following site: www.GoodHopeBC.org.