Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on October 15, 2017
Once again, let us start this morning with our congregational memory verse. Romans 1:16-17, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
Now open your Bibles to Romans 1:24-32. Before we read our text, let us remind ourselves the context of what Paul is addressing. As we saw in verse 15, Paul is eager to preach the Gospel in the city of Rome. Rome is the epicenter of the world around 57 A.D. when Paul wrote this letter. The population of Rome would have been around 1 million people, and it was full of all forms of ungodliness and idolatry. The reason that Paul is so eager to preach the gospel is because the Gospel is the power for salvation, both for himself, and for all who believe.
This leads to the question, salvation from what? What do the Romans need saving from? The answer, as we saw last week in verse 18, is salvation from the wrath of God that is revealed against ungodliness and unrighteousness. This is what makes the gospel good news, verses just news in general; that the almighty creator of the Universe God is angry at all of humanity for its universal rebellion against him, and the gospel, is the one and only means to escape the wrath of God. This is why Paul is eager to preach the gospel.
And last week we began to unpack what is meant in verse 18 by “the wrath of God is revealed” and we saw that God’s wrath does not only mean Hell, which is the primary way we think about God’s wrath, the future judgment of unbelievers. But we also saw that the wrath of God also includes present realities. God’s wrath is handing over humanity to destroy itself by allowing sin to have its full effect. When humanity lives ungodly lives it experiences things such as guilt, fear, anxiety, depression, loneliness, hate, jealousy, greed… the list goes on and on. Sin destroys yourself, your family, your workplace, your school, your nation, and the world. God allowing humanity to pursue their sin, is a act of God revealing his wrath. The natural consequence of rebelling against God is God’s wrath. And with that we step into our text for today.
Charles Spurgeon believed that this section of Scripture was unfit for public reading. Spurgeon said, “This first chapter of the Epistle to the Romans is a dreadful portion of the Word of God. I should hardly like to read it all through aloud; it is not intended to be so used. Read it at home, and be startled at the awful vices of the Gentile world." As I read that quote, I wondered how startling will this chapter be for our Church? Or have we become desensitized to the wretchedness of our culture’s sin.
Gave Them Up
The logic of our Scripture today is the same logic that we examined last week. In verse 24 we see God giving them up to impurity, because they worship creation and not the Creator. Or to say it the opposite way, because they worship creation, God gave them up to impurity.
If you notice, the phrase “gave them up”, or its equivalent, is used in verse 24, verse 26, verse 27, and verse 28. Gave them up, gave them up, gave up, and gave them up. In verse 24, 26 and 28 it is God giving them up, and in verse 27 it is man giving up.
So let us talk more about this idea of God giving them up. The word that Paul uses for “gave” in Greek is “paradidōmi” (pä-rä-dē'-dō-mē) which means to give into the hands of another, or to give over into one’s power or use. This idea of giving, is not a passive action as much as it is an active action. An illustration that Douglas Moo used in his commentary on Romans was when a judge hands a defendant over to a bailiff to be taken to prison. The judge has ultimate authority, but gives the person over to a lesser authority, however, the judge still has supreme authority,or power, over the prisoner.
The power that God hands people over to is “in the lusts of their hearts to impurity.” What does this mean? What do we know about the condition of man’s heart? Jeremiah 17:9 tells us that “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick.” Jesus says as well in Mark 7:21, “out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.” So in the heart of man are desires, lusts of the flesh, and we long to commit these acts of unrighteousness, and God hands us over to them, as a slave to its master. God allows us to pursue the darkness and wretchedness of evil thoughts. God hands them over to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies. And once again, this giving them up is a revelation of God’s wrath.
Lustful, Impure, Dishonorable, Shameful, Passions
Paul continues this thought right into verse 26 and 27, “ 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, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.”
What is Paul talking about that he classifies, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, as a dishonorable passion? The simple answer is homosexuality. Paul uses homosexuality as an example of lustful, impure, dishonorable, shameful passions that God hands people over to so as to reveal his wrath.
How do we know that Paul is talking about homosexuality? First of all, it is abundantly obvious. The first rule of understanding written text is to accept the plain meaning of a passage. This is true for everyday conversations, parsing legislation, and reading the Bible. It is plainly clear what Paul is talking about when he says, “men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men.”
There have been attempts by people to try to argue that this does not mean homosexuality, but like I said last week, it is hard to argue with stupid. And when I say that, I am not trying to be mean, I am saying that when people argue illogically and throw out basic principles of human language, then don’t cast your pearls before swine. Just as it says in verse 22, these people claim to be wise, but they are fools. This text is abundantly clear that homosexuality is a sin. And this is not the only place in God's Word that God says this.
Not to mention the story of Sodom and Gomorrah which God destroyed because of their sins, which homosexuality was one of the primary ones. So to argue that that an unchanging God does not condemn homosexuality in the Bible is an outright act of ignorance. It is like a child sitting on the floor in the kitchen surrounded by cookies, with crumbs all over his face, and upon seeing his parent, places his hands over his eyes foolishly thinking that his parent cannot see them, because he cannot see his parent. That strategy to avoid the parent’s punishment is simply childish. The only way to argue that God does not view homosexuality as a sin is to argue that the Bible is not God’s Word. However, even that argument won’t work.
Contrary to Nature
Notice that Paul does not cite Scripture in his argument that homosexuality is sinful. What does Paul point to? Nature. Look at verse 26 and 27 again, “For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations.”
The word “natural” in Greek is physikos(fü-sē-ko's). Which means, produced by nature, agreeable to nature, governed by nature. Paul, once again, inspired by the Holy Spirit, explicitly says that homosexuality is against the way the natural order of life is governed. Well who created this natural order? Go back to verse 19, “ For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”
God created the natural order of man. Genesis 2 unfolds this story of the creation of Adam and Eve. Genesis 2:23 says, “Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” 24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Jesus reaffirms the literal reading of Genesis 2 as true in Matthew 19:4, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6So they are no longer two but one flesh.”
God created the natural order that sexual intercourse is to be between man and women, male and female, within the confines of marriage. And this is abundantly clear by looking at the physiology of men and women; by looking at basic anatomy. This is not rocket science folks. As Paul said in verse 20 this is clearly perceived. There is absolutely no excuse for people who reject the obvious reality of God’s design.
Therefore, if you find yourself in a discussion about homosexuality, you should speak clearly by stating that God forbids homosexuality. And you merely point them to two things 1) the bible, and 2) the natural order. It is not complicated. You open up the Bible and show them Leviticus 18, Leviticus 20, Romans 1, 1 Corinthians 6, and 1 Timothy 1. If they then reject that the Bible is God’s Word, which they most likely will, then move on to the general revelation of creation, and point to the physiological realities of male and female.
And if after that, they are still not convinced I want you to remember our text today specifically verse 32, that God has given them up, to not only do these shameful acts but to give approval to those who practice them. So do not be surprised that they approve of what is obviously against our Creator’s design and desire.
God’s Wrath and the Gospel
Now with all of this said, we must remember our context. This section, starting with verse 18, is the wrath of God revealed. Meaning that God handing over people to homosexuality, is a punishment. God allowing people to live sexually unnatural lives is a penalty associated with living ungodly. Likewise, look at verse 27, “receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.” Let me give you some statistics.
Just this week, an interview of the late George Michael, the openly gay recording artists, came out, and in that interview George Michael said that after his homosexual partner died, “I was so crushed and felt so bloody picked on by the gods.” Prior to his partner’s death, he recalled yelling at the sky, “don’t you dare do this to me.” Little did George Michael know how close he was to the truth.
Eager to Preach the Gospel
With that said, we must once again, remember the context of our passage, and this is supremely important for us to understand. As I stated, in verse 15 Paul states that he is eager to preach the gospel in Rome, which was full of all forms of sin, homosexuality included. And we should be also. We should be eager to preach the gospel to everyone who lives ungodly lives, because we know that the Gospel can free them from the slavery of their sin and remove the wrath of God that pushes down upon their life. And we see this exact thing in the text that we read earlier, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.