Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Romans 1:24

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.

Therefore, God gave them over to their desires. Paul shocks the system with this pronouncement. Ask yourself, how does God judge sin in the world today? Is it by natural disasters, like tsunamis and earthquakes? Is it by terrorist attacks? Yes. But what Paul says here is that God judges sin in the world by giving sinners over to more sin. God’s judgment against sin is seen in sin itself. That is, sin unchecked is in itself God’s judgment against sin. We see God’s hand of judgment against sin, when we see Him withdrawing the restraints in our society against that sin and when that sin begins to work itself out in our conduct, both individually and corporately. God’s judgment against sin is sin. We might think, “Lord, if we continue to commit this crime of abortion, You will bring judgment against this nation.” Paul would say, “His judgment against this nation is abortion.” You are killing your own kind. Animals know that you cannot do that and survive. Sinners manifest even in their own conduct God’s judgment against sin.

“God gave them over” is the same language used when the Jews handed Jesus over to Pilate. It is the same language used of Pilate handing over Jesus to His executors. It is the same language used in Romans 8:32 to speak of God delivering over His Son to pay the penalty of our sin. God removes the constraints and allows you to go the way of your own wicked hearts. When a human heart says, “I rebel against You God; I want to be my own god; I want to do it my own way.” Then God says, “Okay, have it your way.” And that judicial deliverance, that abandonment into our own desire becomes our own punishment. C.S. Lewis said, “The doors of hell are locked from the inside.” Those in hell don’t want to get out of it, they have chosen it. They have chosen their sin, they have chosen their wickedness. They love it. And God abandons them to their own desires. Does this abandonment to our desires mean freedom? Or slavery?

Sexual Impurity. Paul connects sexual sin, immorality, and idolatry. Paul was writing this letter to the Romans from Corinth, a famously immoral city. In Paul’s time, ‘to act like a Corinthian’ meant to act in a sexually immoral way. It was a sailor’s port town. It had a temple in the city center with 1000+ cult prostitutes servicing it. Paul could see the connection visibly displayed between the idolatry of the Corinthians and their sexual immorality. If your desires are not conformed to the truth, then you will try to conform the truth to your desires. And thus, there is always an inseparable connection between idolatry and immorality. Idolatry is simply immorality worked out. And immorality is simply idolatry worked out.

Paul says that sexual sin is a result of God’s giving us over to our desires. Sometimes people ask, “Is AIDS the judgment of God on homosexuality?” The answer from this text is that homosexuality itself is a judgment on the human race, because we have exchanged the glory of God for the creature—and so is AIDS and cancer and arthritis and Alzheimer’s and every other disease and every other futility and misery in the world, including death. That’s the point of Romans 5:15-18 and Romans 8:20-23, which we will see down the road. Paul will discuss homosexuality specifically in the next section of Scripture that we study, but for now, he says that sexual impurity, which includes but is not limited to homosexuality, for the degrading of our bodies with one another is a desire that sinful man has, and it is a judgment of God.

John Piper says: Paul, in Ephesians 5:31-32, tells us that from the beginning, men and women existed to represent both God’s relation to His people and Christ’s relation to His bride, the Church. The man represents God or Christ and is to love his wife as Christ loved the Church. The woman represents God’s people or the Church. And sexual union in the covenant of marriage represents pure, undefiled, intense worship. That is, God means for the beauty of worship to be expressed in the right ordering of our sexual lives. But instead, we have exchanged the glory of God for images of man. The beauty of worship is destroyed. Therefore, in judgment, God has determined that this disordering of our relation to Him be dramatized in the disordering of our sexual relations with each other. And since the right ordering of our relationship to God in worship was dramatized by heterosexual union in the covenant of marriage, the disordering of our relationship to God is dramatized by the breakdown of that heterosexual union. Homosexuality is the most vivid form of that breakdown. God and man in covenant worship are represented by male and female in covenant sexual union. Therefore, when man turns from God to images of himself, God hands us over to what we have chosen and dramatizes it by male and female turning to images of themselves for sexual union, namely their own sex. Homosexuality is the judgment of God dramatizing the exchange of the glory of God for images of ourselves.

Simply by showing the pervasiveness (regularity or commonness) of sexual immorality in the world, Paul has proven two things. He has proven the doctrine of depravity and the doctrine of the wrath of God. You don’t have to look for mudslides to see the wrath of God against sin. The wrath of God against sin is seen when He breaks lose the restraints of sin in a society and lets sinners go their own way.

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