Unnatural Retrogression of Man: Part 1 of 2 (series: Lessons on Romans)
by John Lowe
Unnatural Retrogression of Man
Now we see the results of man’s revolution against God. In the remainder of this chapter, it says three times that God gave them up.
24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves,
Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness. The word "therefore" indicates that the retribution to follow finds its grounds in the sins of the past and is therefore justifiable. Because the heathen participated in idolatry, God gave them up to uncleanness. Uncleanness means sexual deviation by which they would dishonor their own bodies among themselves. Three times it is said that God gave man up (literally, handed them over). He gave them up to uncleanness, to vile passions (1:26), and to a reprobate mind (1:28). In other words, God’s wrath was directed against man’s entire personality.
25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
Who exchanged the truth of God for the lie.
The suppression of the truth which God gave to the heathen became the basis for their idolatry and as a result, they worshiped and served the creature more than the Creator. They degraded themselves by the things they worshiped, and exalted those things created to a higher position than the One who created them.
They were abandoned by God because they first abandoned the truth about Him for the lie of idolatry. The lie is a denial of God’s existence and His right to be obeyed and glorified. An idol is a lie, a false representation of God. An idolater worships the image of a creature, and therefore insults and dishonors the Creator, who is eternally worthy of honor and glory, not of insult.
26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature.
For this reason God gave them up to vile passions.
These vile passions spawned homosexual activity. The apostle goes on to explain that their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Sexual perversion always accompanies idolatry.
For this reason God gave people up to erotic activity with members of their own sex. Women became lesbians, practicing unnatural sex and feeling no shame. Homosexuality was practiced commonly in the pagan world of Paul’s day. Paul condemned this practice as contrary to God’s design (see Lev. 18).
27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.
Men became sodomites, in total perversion of their natural functions. Turning away from the marriage relationship ordained by God, they burned with lust for other men and practiced homosexuality. But their sin took its toll in their bodies and souls. Disease, guilt, and personality deformities struck at them like the sting of a scorpion. This refutes the notion that anyone can commit this sin and get away with it.
Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men.
Homosexuality is also the result of idolatry. Although today the world seeks to popularize and legitimize homosexuality, nevertheless it is despicable to God and condemned by Him. Increased homosexuality is a sign of the soon return of the Lord—“For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy” (II Tim 3:2). God never overlooks this blatant misuse of the body and consequently, those who have engaged in this perversion may eventually pay a terrible price by receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due—aids or one of the other sexually transmitted diseases.
Homosexuality is being passed off today by some as a sickness and by others as a legitimate alternative lifestyle. Christians must be careful not to accept the world’s moral judgments but to be guided by God’s word. In the Old Testament, this sin was punishable by death—“For whoever commits any of these abominations, the persons who commit them shall be cut off from among their people” (Lev. 18:29); and “If
a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them” (Lev. 20:13); and here in the New Testament those who practice it are said to be worthy of death—“who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them” (Rom. 1:32). The Bible speaks of homosexuality as a very serious sin, as evidenced by God’s obliteration of Sodom and Gomorrah, where militant “gays” ran riot (see Gen. 19:4–25).
The gospel offers pardon and forgiveness to homosexuals, as it does to all sinners who repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Christians who have fallen into this horrific sin can find forgiveness and restoration through confessing and forsaking the sin. There is complete deliverance from homosexuality to all who are willing to obey God’s word. Ongoing counseling assistance is very important in most cases.
It is true that some people seem to have a natural tendency toward homosexuality. This should not be surprising, since fallen human nature is capable of just about any form of sin and perversion. This gross sin does not consist of the inclination toward it but in yielding to and practicing it. The Holy Spirit gives the power to resist the temptation and to have lasting victory: “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Cor. 10:13). Some of the Christians in Corinth were living proofs that homosexuals need not be permanently bound to that lifestyle: “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 homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:9–11). Evidently, some members of the first-century church practiced homosexuality but were cured of it by God.
28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting.
They did not like to retain God in their knowledge.
This verse gives deep insight into why evolution has such enormous appeal for natural men. The reason lies not in their intellects but in their wills. They do not want to retain God in their knowledge. It is not that the evidence for evolution is so overwhelming that they are compelled to accept it; rather, it is because they want some explanation for origins that will eliminate God completely. They know that if there is a God, then they are morally responsible to Him.
God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting.
Because of men’s refusal to retain God in their knowledge, either as Creator, Sustainer, or Deliverer, God gave them over to a debased mind to commit a catalog of other forms of wickedness.
The word debased means “degraded.” Since they had suppressed the truth of God revealed to them, the heathen did not retain God in their knowledge and consequently, for the third time in almost as many verses, the apostle records that God gave them up (or over) to what they wanted all along. When He did so, the results were disastrous. The effects of their abandonment result solely from the corruption of the human heart; this cannot be blamed on God. The individual with a debased or degenerate mind can no longer comprehend God and ultimately will reap spiritual death as the consequence of his sin. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).
“Not fitting” as used in this verse described inappropriate or improper conduct.