Jesus Plus Nothing Bible Studies
Book of Romans: Chapter 1 Part 3 - The wrath of abandonment!
by F Gordon
Last time we were in chapter 1 we looked at the beauty of God's revelation of Himself through creation and how all creation speaks of a Creator. Everywhere you look you can see God's hand, His divine power and things about His character which are beautiful. So we got up to verse 20 last time where Paul is starting on this theme that all men are really without excuse because there is enough revelation given- both in the conscience that man has been given and the moral conscience which is God given. And not only that, all men are without excuse because there is enough in creation that they can search out to know that there is a God. So those are the really good things that we looked at last time.
Today we are going to look at the results of whenever that light and revelation is rejected things happen. So out of the beautiful things we are back in the pig pen. It is not nice reading when you get to the end of Romans 1 but it is a reality and you can't scoot around the outside of it because we will see that it is the very culture that we are living in now.
What happens when you reject God?
Romans 1:21-22 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (22) Professing to be wise, they became fools...
Paul is speaking here about what happens to people that reject the evidence of God. The first thing is that they did not glorify God and nor were they thankful. The Bible speaks a lot about thankfulness for what God has done for us as His creatures, and actually having a heart that is thankful towards Him for all of those things. So these people are not thankful at all for all the things that God has provided and Paul says that they became futile in their thoughts and their foolish hearts is darkened; professing to be wise they became fools.
Now the Bible says a fool is someone who says in his heart that 'there is no God.' God calls that person a fool. Once someone begins to reject the light and the revelation that is given, philosophies and vain thoughts start to come into their mind. Evolution is a prime example of something that is taught these days within our schools. It is taught as a truth rather than man's theory. It is taught as 'the truth' about our existence and how we got here. It is one of the biggest lies ever to come down to human beings. Vain imaginations, theories and humanism deny the existence of God who created us for an intelligent purpose. Professing to be wise they became fools. There is a progression.
Romans 1:23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man--and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.
The order Paul starts with is 'man' and then he goes down through the animal kingdom right down to the bottom to where things creep along the ground. Bob Dylan sung that song years ago- 'You are going to have to serve somebody'. "You may serve the devil or you may be the Lord, but you are going to have to serve somebody." Everybody worships something. Idolism has come in and the first thing that Romans talks about is that man is now actually worshipped. So either self is worshipped as an idol or it is someone else that is put up in that place and they are idolized and worshipped. In a lot of the Asian and Indian cultures you see idols everywhere, things that they fashion with their hands and bow down to. I heard a missionary from India who said that in Hinduism they have 300 million gods. How you could ever come up with that amount is unbelievable but everything is worshipped as a god. So idolism is rampant in those cultures.
But what idols do we have in our culture that we face? Money is huge in our secular society. An idol is anything that takes the place in your heart that really God should fill. Sports heroes are looked up to and idolized. Sport is huge in our culture! A person's position is also worshiped. So the result of the rejection of the revelation of God is that man falls into these things. He comes up with theories that deny the existence of God. He will worship something, everyone has to worship, and either it is himself or another man or an idol that they has been fashioned.
The dreaded "giving - over"
Romans 1:24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves,
Three times Paul uses this term...a giving up or a giving over. It's a judicial term, as in when a judge gives a sentence. It is a giving over by God, of people, nations and cultures because they reject the light and the revelation that they have been given.
Psalms 81:11-12 "But My people would not heed My voice, And Israel would have none of Me. (12) So I gave them over to their own stubborn heart, To walk in their own counsels.
When Israel wouldn't listen to His instructions, wouldn't listen to His prophets, and would have none of the Lord, He gave them over. He essenitally said 'Ok... You can walk in your own counsel. You can walk in your own wickedness - away you go." In Hosea he said the same thing about Ephraim.
Hosea 4:17 "Ephraim is joined to idols, Let him alone."
Israel is worshipping idols; let him go his own way. This is a different thought concerning God; that He actually gives people and cultures over to follow their own wickedness. When I was thinking about this it came to me that as a parent you can actually do this in part. So far I have never had to do it, but many parents do. If you have a wayward child, someone who refuses to listen to your counsel; you know that the road they are walking down is wrong and you can see trouble coming for them, but they still refuse to take any instruction from you, in a sense you have to cut the rope and give them over or allow them to walk that path and feel the sting of sin and its consequences. This is the thought that God is giving over - there is a point where He lets you go.
The story of the prodigal son is actually like that as well. The father knew his son. He knew what his son was like. When his son came to him saying 'give me my inheritance' his father knew that he was going to blow it. He knew he was going to waste it because he knew the heart of his child. I love the fact that the father gave it to him anyway. It's an interesting thought that God in this parable, gave the child what he wanted even though He knew what he was going to do with it. It wasn't until he reached the pig pen; the end of himself, and the sinfulness of sin came down upon him and stung him hard that he came to his senses and said 'I have sinned against heaven, and I have sinned against my father'.
C S Lewis said 'There are only two kinds of people in the end. Those who say to God, 'Thy will be done', and those who God says- 'thy will be done.' He is actually right. In the end there are two kinds of people. You either say to the Lord 'I will follow your will, your will be done,' or God will say to you 'You follow your own will, your will be done.'
The slippery slope... and culture then and now
Romans 1:24-28 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, (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. (26) For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. (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. (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;
You have a progression here and that is why people are in the pig pen. They reject the light and revelation that God has given them and come up with all sorts of reasoning's. Idol worship is next and always following on with idol worship is sexual perversion. Paul lived at a time when homosexuality was accepted. In Rome, much of the Roman Empire and its emperors were either homosexual or bisexual and it was accepted and was legalized. They had legal prostitution of boys; there were public holidays for legal prostitution of boys. It was a big part of their culture. Even in Paul's time the emperor Nero took a boy called Sporus, and married him in a public ceremony. After he married him he was actually joined to another man in marriage. So this is the culture in which Paul is writing this letter.
Leviticus 18:22 You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination.
Leviticus 20:13 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.
Under Jewish law these things were punishable by death. They were an abomination to the Lord. To Paul it was not a practice in Jewish or Hebrew culture because of the laws that God had given. But for the rest of the nations around them it was normal. But God had called Israel to be separate and the way that the Lord views this type of behavior is that it misses the mark, it is wrong, it is sin, and is something that is abominable to Him. When you get to the New Testament, Paul in 1 Corinthians chapter 6, 9 and 10, lists homosexuality as a sin. The people that practice these things will not inherit the Kingdom of God. Paul comes into this culture and highlights that this is what happens when people begin to reject the light and the revelation.
Most of you would realize that things have changed radically in our culture - when I was young, what we have been discussing was not accepted. It was unlawful. In school it was thought as something that was wrong. Thirty to forty years ago everything that you watched on television,( like Little House on the Prairie, The Waltons, and the Brady Bunch), had a man, a woman and a family. This was the context in which we grew up and it was normal. Then we started to have shows where unmarried people lived together. That was the first step which became acceptable over a period of time. Today, what have you got? You have virtually whatever goes. And a lot of it is actually due to the media. Whoever controls the media controls the way people think. If you tell a lie enough times and for a long enough period people will believe it. This is what has happened with the media concerning homosexuality. It is not only approved it is promoted as an alternative lifestyle, and is approved of.
Thirty years ago, we could not say we lived in a similar culture to what Paul was talking about in Romans 1. However, now we do. We are living in very similar times and this type of behavior is accepted as okay. The media is a lot to blame; but the church has been silent, it has lost the battle on morality. Church leaders and pastors and celebrants now have to face these issues about homosexuality and the joining of a man with another man. A lot of leaders have bowed to culture rather than to what the Bible says; they are interpreting the Bible by the culture as opposed to the other way round. In so doing they have had to compromise the Word of God. It says plainly that this practice is a sin of the flesh, one among many, but it is a sin of the flesh that the Lord Jesus can deliver people from.
Paul says 'God gave them up to uncleanness to dishonor their bodies.' . He says that it is shameful, they are in error. He also says that it is against nature. The natural order of things is male and female. That is the way that God created us. It was Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. Even in nature there is no procreation between the same sexes. So nature tells you that it is wrong, you can't procreate. It is just a selfish, self gratifying act and there is no procreation from it. In both the Old Testament and the New it is wrong behavior, it is a sin, and it is an abomination.
A recent example - how things have changed
My son attends a Christian school and they take Christian studies. They have debates and I was talking to him the other day about some of the issues that they discuss in his class. It is 50/50 in his class as to whether homosexuality is a sin or not. Opinions are split down the middle; and this is in a Christian school. In his history class he was the only one who stood up and said that the Bible says it is wrong. It is amazing how much it is promoted and the argument is that it is natural for them. But Paul says it is actually against nature. I don't doubt that you can have tendencies that way but we all have tendencies to sin. This is what it is, it is a sin and it is something that the Lord Jesus Christ by His life in us can actually free a person from. We all have tendencies to steal, hate, commit adultery... they are all sins, but it is still an individual choice whether you act on those tendencies. The Bible would say that those homosexual tendencies, even if you were born with them, are still wrong. The Lord Jesus Christ, by His spirit in you, can free you from that.
This is what I really feel has happened in our culture. We had a good spiritual foundation put into this country. A Bible based spiritual foundation which has been rejected. It has been rejected outright by our leaders, and our population. When something goes out something else comes in to fill the vacuum, it is filled with something else. It always happens. What has come in? You have got secularism. Liberalism has come in. So in other words there is a consequence for acting this way. Some people have said that Aids is a consequence of that sort of behavior. I looked up the Family Research statistics which may go along with this. The average age of a man dying with aids is 39, which is young. The average age of all other causes of death for practicing homosexuals is only 41, which I thought is incredibly young. One percent of homosexual men live to 65 or older. If you contrast that with the statistics of heterosexual men the average age is in the 70's. Paul says here that they receive in themselves the penalty of the error which was due. When I read that and looked at the statistics, I thought, these stats have to be telling us something loud and clear.
Out with genders...
Romans 1:28-31 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; (29) being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality,  wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, (30) backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, (31) undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful;
The Greek word for 'debased' means metals that have not passed the test. This has actually become true because I found an article which stated that in Michigan a mother and son have gone public to transition to father and daughter. So in other words Arthur wants to become Martha and Martha wants to become Arthur. This is what happens. They went public and God gave them over to a debased mind. You wouldn't even have considered this 20 - 30 years ago. But this is what is happening. It has even taken a further step and has gone into gender issues. We now have genderless toilets, which is pushed in the schools because kids don't know what sex they are. You have genderless roles coming in. You are no longer male or female, genderless will be a box you can tick. It is beyond reason. It is debased. This is the world in which we find ourselves, very similar to that which Paul wrote about. Paul also writes about things that come from this giving-over - There is a big list there. Too much to go through each one but this is the state of where the world is.
Finally hearty approval is given
Romans 1:32 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.
We see here the final step in this downward progression. The lie is now promoted, appauded, and they want others to partake of it. It eases their conscience if someone else is doing the same as they are; it makes it easier on them. It is flaunted. Look at the whole gay 'pride movement'. It is encouraged by the media who flaunt it. They want you to accept it, be a part of it and justify it. So how are we to respond in a culture like this?
We will look at one verse just to end on a positive note.
Philippians 2:12-16 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; (13) for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. (14) Do all things without complaining and disputing, (15) that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, (16) holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.
'But the Lord knows how to deliver the righteous from temptation and to save the ungodly for the Day of Judgment'. Keep working out that which he has actually put in you, and stay close to Him; He says 'shine'. So let your light, as a Christian, shine. Yes, it's a dark place. When you look up at night it's all dark apart from the stars. They just twinkle away. It's the same when God looks down upon the earth there is darkness and perversion all around apart from the saints. They are the ones that are shining forth their light. And the last thing we are told to hold onto is scripture and let scripture be your guide and your path through this life. Interpret your culture by scripture, and not the other way around.