With Dale Ratzlaff
We pick up our study in Romans 1:24.
Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them (Rom. 1:24-32).
This section of Romans is as up to date as the evening news. It is also as tragic as the evening news. By the first word, “therefore” Paul shows the cause of what will be described in this section.
Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures (Rom 1:22-23).
People cannot reject God and go on without consequences. The gentiles turned their backs on the God of creation and exchanged His wisdom and truth for foolishness and idolatry. Now the long slide to depravity accelerates like a bob sled on a steep snowy mountain.
Those who turn their backs on God and His truth, He allows to go their own way and reap the consequences of their own choices: lust in the heart leads to impurity of actions which leads to dishonored bodies. Paul points out the reason for the degradation of the human condition over and over again.
“They exchanged the truth about God for a lie”.
Paul gives us the origin of homosexuality. The key word is “exchanged”.
For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error (Rom. 1:26-27).
Little can be added to this powerful paragraph. There is no question about what Paul describes or intends. In fact, what continues is self-explanatory. Some might argue that the natural results may not always be as bad as Paul outlines. Nevertheless, Paul, writing under the inspiration of God, must show the consequences of rejecting God. Here is the ugly list.
And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them (Rom. 1:28-32).
I wonder if Paul had a vision of some of the riots we have seen recently on TV where people were expressing hatred to God and everyone who stands for truth? We just received the March, 2017, issue of Decision, published by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. This issue’s cover reads, “The Big Lies: Abortion, Gender Identity, False Religions, and Evolution”. On the first page is a picture of a home-made sign saying, “Thank GOD I’m Gay”.
In my short lifetime—80 years and counting—I have seen a huge shift in the values of society. Sadly, with all the “enlightenment” of increased education, the improvement in the availability of good nutrition, and the rise in living standards, societal values have plummeted. I well remember living in North Carolina as a boy—no plumbing, only an outhouse about 75 feet from the back door. Our water supply was a long handled hand pump out the back door. I would fill a bucket and carry it in and place it on the “drain board”. We had no electricity or phone, and our only heat was wood. Kerosene lanterns served to give us a little flickering light in the evening. We were a mile from our closest neighbors. We were poor by all earthly standards but did not consider ourselves poor. Was there immorality then? Yes, but not of the nature or extent there is today. In those days all forms of immorality, including the ones outlined by Paul, were not accepted by society. Society at large, at least as far as I can recall, still had a moral basis. Immorality was looked down upon; there was a moral fabric to life.
Not only has the consensus of modern society left God’s morality, but those who hate God have influenced the laws to buttress their views. For example, it is seen to be perfectly normal and OK for someone who starts out as “straight” to later become “gay”. In fact, it is often celebrated. However, now there are laws that forbid the counseling of anyone to make the change form “gay to straight”.
Morality, however, does not come from the laws of the government. It starts in the changed heart. It grows from family, church, and the study of word.
After reading this section of Romans, there are several things that we need to keep in mind. First, in this depraved society with all the voices shouting, “Gay pride is OK”, we cannot compromise God’s word to meet society’s norms. Second, it is human nature for us to tell ourselves, “We don’t do these things; therefore, we have the righteousness God requires.” We are quick to see ourselves as better than others. Third, we need to keep in mind Paul’s outline. Romans 1:18-3:20 is designed to show that ALL mankind are sinners, not one of us is righteous. We all are lost sinners in need of the free grace of Christ. Fourth, God is able to save to the uttermost. There is no sin, other than rejection of the Holy Spirit, unbelief in the person and work of Christ, that cannot be forgiven. Read carefully Paul’s statement to the Corinthian church:
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God (1 Cor. 6:9-11).
Regardless of what counselors say or do not say regarding sexuality, Paul shows that the power of the gospel of Christ is sufficient to bring deliverance from temptation and to keep us from being given over to lusts.
I am reminded of a conversation we had some time ago with a pastor’s wife. She said she was on an air flight and in the process developed a conversation with the lady in the next seat. After introductions the lady next to the pastor’s wife said, “You must think I am a terrible sinner because I am gay”. The pastor’s wife answered with spiritual insight, “We are two sinners together in need of the grace of God.”
Lord, guide my feet in the way of righteousness, help me receive all people with your great love. Be merciful to us as sinners.
In Jesus name