(from a transcript of a sermon preached on 8/5/01 at Sovereign Redeemer Assembly)
Let's read Romans 1, verses 21 through 32:
Romans 1: (21) Because knowing God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful. But [they] became vain in their reasonings, and their undiscerning heart was darkened. (22) Professing to be wise, they became foolish (23) and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into a likeness of an image of corruptible man, and of birds, and four-footed animals, and creeping things. (24) Because of this, God gave them up to impurity in the lusts of [their] hearts, their bodies to be dishonored among themselves, (25) who changed the truth of God into the lie, and worshiped and served the created thing more than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. (26) Because of this, God gave them up to dishonorable passions, for even their females changed the natural use to that contrary to nature. (27) And likewise, the males also forsaking the natural use of the female burned in their lust toward one another, males with males working out shamefulness, and receiving back within themselves the reward which was fitting for their error. (28) And even as they did not think fit to have God in [their] knowledge, God gave them up to a reprobate mind, to do the things not right, (29) having been filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, iniquity, covetousness, malice, [being] full of envy, murder, quarrels, deceit, evil habits, [becoming] whisperers, (30) slanderers, God-haters, insolent, proud, braggarts, devisers of evil things, disobedient to parents, (31) without discernment, covenant breakers, without natural affection, unforgiving, unmerciful, (32) who knowing the righteous order of God, that those practicing such things are worthy of death, not only do them, but also approve those practicing [them].
In verse 18, Paul states that God's wrath is revealed on all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. Last week, we saw the UNGODLINESS of men, which is their impiety or false worship. This has to do with their disobedience to the commandments to love God. This week, the Lord willing, we will see the UNRIGHTEOUSNESS of men, which is their lawlessness or immorality. This has to do with their disobedience to the commandments to love their neighbors as themselves. We will see that they are guilty and defiled - totally without anything that would recommend them unto God.
This study will start with verses 26 and 27. But before we go any further, I want you to notice that the Holy Spirit through the apostle Paul makes a LIST of sins. Why did he LIST specific sins rather than just say, "they were immoral"? Well, if you listen to the antinomians, you would have to conclude that Paul was being LEGALISTIC in naming these sins by name. Some of them would say that to mention or get into to specific sins of immorality in a sermon is to be a legalist. They would say that all we need to know is that immorality is contrary to God's holiness and that immoral people need a righteousness that they can't produce, and we don't need to get into mentioning or defining specific sins. They say the same kinds of things when it comes to specific commandments. They say that to get into defining what obedience to specific commandments MEANS would be to get into legalism. They say that all we need to know is that we have no ability to obey these commandments and that Jesus obeyed them in our stead. I even heard a pastor say, in reference to the command in 1 Timothy 2:9 to women to adorn themselves in proper clothing, modestly and discreetly - this pastor said something like, "I'm not going to touch that one. You women know a lot more about what's modest and what's not than I do, so I'll let you decide for yourselves." You'll hear the antinomians say, "we're all immoral, we're all liars and adulterers and murderers, so let's not get nit-picky about do's and don't's." Well, the BIBLE names specific sins and it commands specific commands; they'd just rather take these parts out of the Bible. Now before anyone misunderstands me, I want to say that one's MORALITY does not recommend one to God in any way to any degree. So as we go through the list of sins, don't think that your ABSTAINING from these sins is the ground of acceptance before God. In order for God to accept a sinner, he must be PERFECTLY RIGHTEOUS. We're seeing in these passages that the heathens were far from being perfectly righteous. But we WILL see, the Lord willing, in the next chapter, that the RELIGIOUS JEWS were just as far from being perfectly righteous. Salvation is conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ ALONE, with NO CONTRIBUTION FROM the sinner's best efforts at religion or morality. Yet God, in the passage we are about to go into, LISTS specific sins of immorality for the benefit of His people. We are to take heed to these inspired words of God, and we are to SHUN these sins and be REPULSED by these sins.
Okay, now to verses 26 and 27:
Romans 1: (26) Because of this, God gave them up to dishonorable passions, for even their females changed the natural use to that contrary to nature. (27) And likewise, the males also forsaking the natural use of the female burned in their lust toward one another, males with males working out shamefulness, and receiving back within themselves the reward which was fitting for their error.
Note first that it says, "Because of this." This is the second time this phrase is used; the first one was in verse 24. "Because of this" means "as a result of what was just mentioned." The KJV translates it "for this cause." In this case, "because of this" or "for this cause" means "because they changed the truth of God into the lie." So their IMMORALITY stemmed from their IDOLATRY. This is important to note. When we see a person who could be characterized as IMMORAL, we can judge that this immorality stems from their false view of God. Their false GOSPEL leads to their immoral LIFESTYLE. Similarly, a person's TRUE gospel leads to a MORAL lifestyle. But notice that we CANNOT say that one's MORALITY always stems from a belief in the gospel. There are many MORAL people, even religiously ZEALOUS people, who believe a false gospel. Take the fundamentalists, for example. Many of their works are OUTWARDLY good, but they come from a wicked heart. And the way we know that is by what GOSPEL they confess. They believe that their MORALITY forms at least some part of their acceptance before God. So let's get this into our minds: CHRISTIANS are MORAL, but not all who are MORAL are CHRISTIANS.
Notice secondly that Paul says that God "gave them up" to these things. What does it mean when it says that God "gave them up"? Well, most commentators will say that this speaks of God's so-called "permissive will," in which He let go of the reigns a little more so that they could do more of what they wanted to do. But we know that this cannot be so, because a god who is not fully in control, who does not fully hold the reigns, so to speak, is not God. There is no such thing as a "permissive will" of God. God never "lets" things happen. He is fully in control of every action of every particle of the universe. He is fully in control of every action of every person. Every decision, every movement, every neuron firing is a result of God's direct intervention. For God to "let go" of some of His control would mean that God would be "letting go" of His Godhood, and that would be impossible. The Greek word for "to give up" in this passage is par-a-DID-o-mee, and it is usually translated "to DELIVER up." Let's look at how this word is used in other passages of Scripture.
Matthew 5: (25) Be well intentioned toward your opponent quickly, while you are in the way with him, that the opponent not deliver you to the judge, and the judge deliver you to the officer, and you be thrown into prison.
Matthew 18: (34) And being angry, his lord delivered him up to the tormentors until he pay back all that debt to him.
Matthew 24: (9) Then they will deliver you up to affliction, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name.
Matthew 25: (14) For [it is] as if a man going abroad called [his] own slaves and delivered his goods to them. ... (20) And coming up, the [one] who received five talents brought another five talents near, saying, Lord, you delivered five talents to me. Behold, I gained another five talents above them. ... (22) And the [one] who received two talents also coming up, [he] said, Lord, you delivered two talents to me. Behold, I have gained two other talents above them.
Matthew 26: (14) Then one of the twelve going to the chief priests, the [one] called Judas Iscariot, (15) said, What will you give to me, and I will deliver Him up to you? And they weighed to him thirty silver pieces.
Matthew 27: (2) And binding Him, they led [Him] away and delivered Him to Pontius Pilate the governor. ... (26) Then he released Barabbas to them. But having flogged Jesus, he delivered [Him] up that He might be crucified.
Acts 12: (4) whom also capturing [him,] he put [him] into prison, delivering [him] to four sets of four soldiers to guard him, intending to bring him up to the people after the Passover.
Acts 21: (11) And coming to us, and taking Paul's girdle, and binding his hands and feet, he said, The Holy Spirit says these [things]: In Jerusalem the Jews will bind in this way the man whose girdle this is, and will deliver [him] up into the hands of [the] nations.
Acts 27: (1) And when it was decided for us to sail to Italy, they delivered up both Paul and certain other prisoners to a centurion named Julius, of a cohort of Augustus.
1 Corinthians 11:2,23:
1 Corinthians 11: (2) But I praise you, brothers, that in all things you have remembered me, and even as I delivered [them] to you, you hold fast the doctrines. ... (23) For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread;
1 Corinthians 15:3:
1 Corinthians 15: (3) For I delivered to you in the first place what I also received, that Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures,
The reason I read so many verses is to show you without a doubt that this has nothing to do with permission. Do you find permission in any of these passages? No - the DELIVERING was an ACTIVE thing. So the first part of Romans 1:26 would be better translated, "For this cause, God delivered them up to dishonorable passions."
Let's briefly define "dishonorable passions." The word for "dishonorable" means disgraceful or shameful. The word for "passions" means desires or affections. So it could be translated "disgraceful desires" or "shameful affections" or another combination. This parallels verse 24, which says that God delivered them up to impurity in the lusts of their hearts.
So what dishonorable passions is God talking about here? He talks of FEMALES changing the natural use to that contrary to nature and MALES forsaking the natural use of the female and burning in lust toward one another. So he's talking about females with females and males with males. Specifically, it has to do with females sexually desiring and having sexual relations with other females, and males sexually desiring and having sexual relations with other males. In modern language, this is called homosexuality. God says that this is "contrary to nature" and that it is not a "natural use." So what is the natural use that is not contrary to nature? Let's turn over to Genesis 2:24:
Genesis 2: (24) Therefore, a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife and they shall become one flesh.
In the Garden of Eden, God says that a MAN will cleave to his WIFE. The MAN is a male and the WIFE is a female. That is what God created as natural. Any deviation from this is a dishonorable passion, a shameful desire. The only natural sexual desire that is not shameful is between a husband and a wife. Homosexuality is an abomination. But notice what I said: The only natural sexual desire that is not shameful is between a HUSBAND and a WIFE. Although a husband and wife are of the opposite sex, I'm not talking about any sexual desire between any man and any woman. The only natural sexual desire that is not shameful is between a HUSBAND and a WIFE. This means that ANY sexual desire OUTSIDE THE BONDS OF MARRIAGE is shameful. Many will come to this verse and say that since it is "natural" for men and women to desire each other, then it is okay for unmarried boys and girls, men and women, to go out on dates together, to find each other physically attractive, to go crazy over the latest music star or sports star of the opposite sex, and on and on. But this, too, is an abomination. It is not a natural, unshameful affection. Turn over to Matthew 5:27-28:
Matthew 5: (27) You have heard that it was said to the ancients: "Do not commit adultery." (28) But I say to you, Everyone looking at a woman to lust after her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
Do you get what that says? Any man who is SEXUALLY ATTRACTED to a woman outside the bonds of marriage is guilty of adultery. So if homosexual attraction isn't where you are sinning, what about extramarital HETEROSEXUAL ATTRACTION? They are both wicked in the sight of God.
Back to Romans 1:27. Paul says that they were "working out shamefulness." This means that they not only had these evil thoughts, they actually did these evil things with those of the same sex. And then Paul says, "receiving back within themselves the reward which was fitting for their error." What is the reward, and what is the error? Well, the error was their false worship of God - their idolatry - which we went over in verses 19 through 25. The reward for their error was that God caused them to act as beasts, or even lower than beasts. God says that this is a fitting reward for not glorifying and thanking God. How much morally lower can humans go than to engage in homosexuality? Paul shows us here that this is the epitome of immorality. They brought God down in their worship (not actually bringing Him down, of course), and God brought THEM down into the filth of homosexuality. It is a fitting reward. What do the advocates of common grace have to say about THIS? Here is God, in His hatred toward the heathen, bringing them down into the vilest, dirtiest, most disgusting thing imaginable. And God calls it a fitting reward. Where's that universal love that they put forth in such flowery language? Where's that universal compassion? Where's that universal grace? Of course, there are no such things. God, in His righteousness, MUST abhor the wicked. And in this case, His abhorrence of them, His hatred of them, is manifest in His causing them to sink lower than low into the depths of immorality.
I think I'll go into the first part of the next sentence and stop there. Let's read verse 28:
Romans 1: (28) And even as they did not think fit to have God in [their] knowledge, God gave them up to a reprobate mind, to do the things not right,
These heathen did not have a KNOWLEDGE of God. Here again we see knowledge. It just won't go away, will it? Those who do not have God - the true and living God of the Bible who reveals Himself as a just God and a Savior - those who do not have God in their KNOWLEDGE, are unregenerate. They do not KNOW the true and living God, and they do not UNDERSTAND who He is and what He has done. Ignorance of God is a sure sign of lostness. Ignorance of God's work in sending His Son to establish a righteousness that ensures the salvation of all whom He represented is a sure sign of lostness. Heathens do not have God in their knowledge. Buddhists and Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses and Muslims and Hindus do not have God in their knowledge. Arminians do not have God in their knowledge. But particularly for the heathen in this passage, God delivered them up to a reprobate mind, to work immorality. What is a "reprobate mind"? The word "reprobate" here means "worthless." God made their mind worthless. They were like brute beasts. They did not know right from wrong. They just did whatever their worthless minds told them to do. And in the last part of this sentence, God makes a list of the actions that came from their worthless minds. We will go point-by-point through this list next week, the Lord willing.
So what did we see today? It sure wasn't a pretty picture was it? We saw that these heathen idolaters got what they deserved when God delivered them over to dishonorable passions, specifically, the vile, abominable sexual passions toward those of the same sex. And next week, the Lord willing, more of the same ugly picture of these stupid, mindless heathen. They were and are wicked sinners, aren't they? There's no way that THEIR evil, vile works could recommend them to God, is there? There's no way that God is pleased with THEIR wickedness, is there? They are ungodly and unrighteous. They are void of a righteousness that equals God's righteousness. That's easy to see. Even most in false religion that comes in the name of Christ see this to a point. Conservative so-called "Christians" would say that homosexuality is evil and vile and abominable. We've seen them come out boldly here in Vermont against homosexual marriage. Yet what they do not realize is that THEIR WORKS are just as evil and vile, because they do not believe the true gospel of salvation conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ alone. Their belief that Jesus Christ died for everyone without exception is just as wicked as the most vile pervert on the face of the earth. In fact, Jesus said in Matthew 11:24 that it will be more tolerable for the SODOMITES than for the self-righteous religionists on Judgment Day. It will be more tolerable for those who commit the abominable act of sodomy than for those who believe that their own works are what make the difference between salvation and damnation. We should be utterly disgusted and repulsed by homosexuality and any sexual attraction outside of the marriage bond. But we should be equally or even more disgusted and repulsed by those who believe and proclaim salvation conditioned on the sinner. They give the same name to their jesus, and they proclaim this jesus as if he were our jesus, yet they desecrate and defile the Holy Name of the True Jesus Christ, who came and lived a perfect life and died the death of a criminal in the place of His people in order to SAVE EVERY LAST ONE OF THEM. God's wrath was totally appeased. The price had totally been paid. Salvation was accomplished. And all whom Christ represented in His life and death and resurrection WILL BE SAVED. And as we praise God for His marvelous
grace toward us, let us do good works and shun wickedness out of love for the One who was punished for our wickedness. Amen.