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Summary: This sermon shows God’s divine justice, which is delivered upon unrepentant sinners.

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Scripture

Let’s read Romans 1:24-32:

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. 25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator--who is forever praised. Amen.

26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.

28 Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. (Romans 1:24-32)

Introduction

Preaching to his congregation on Romans 1:18-32, Pastor Walter Luthi said, "In the words that we have just read we are told the whole truth about our condition. There may well be people among us who cannot bear to hear the truth, and would like to creep quietly away out of this church. Let them do so if they wish."

There is justification for Luthi’s words, for Paul’s canvas upon which he has painted his picture--dark, foreboding, threatening, flashing with lightening and crashing with thunder--is crammed with forms and figures, lights and shadows, of sin, wrath, and judgment.

And the revelation of God’s wrath is total and complete, encompassing all and rendering all without excuse and under condemnation, both individually and collectively.

The prophet Isaiah spoke of judgment as God’s "strange work" (cf. Isaiah 28:21). The idea that it is a strange work is because of a popular contemporary misunderstanding of the being and attributes of God in Scripture. People in our society tend to think of God only as a God of love. God certainly is a God of love, but he has many more attributes, not least of which is justice.

The justice of God is sometimes divided into several categories. One category is the retributive justice of God, which is an expression of divine wrath in which God punishes the wicked (Genesis 2:17; Deuteronomy 27:26; Galatians 3:10; Romans 6:23). Since God is just and righteous, the punishment of sinners is fair because they receive the just penalty due them for their sin.

Three times Paul says that God gave (paredoken) them over in verses 24, 26, and 28.

The primary purpose of this sermon is to analyze and, if possible, clarify the meaning of the term paredoken, setting it within the context of the theology of the being and attributes of God, particularly his retributive justice.

The apostle Paul introduced his message of the gospel to the Romans in the opening section (1:1-17).

His theme is that the gospel is the righteousness of God that is received by faith alone (1:16-17).

Next, he began his development of the case history of human sin and condemnation (1:18-23). The section begins in 1:18 and does not conclude until 3:20. In it Paul moves from the declaration of Gentile sin (1:18-32) through Jewish sin (2:1-3:8) to the climax of the apostolic diagnosis that "the whole world" is guilty, with every mouth stopped, speechless in the terror of condemnation before a holy and righteous God (3:19-20).

In the immediate context, Paul, in his endeavor to prove that the only righteousness available to man is that which is obtained by faith alone, declared that God’s displeasure toward sin has been revealed from heaven (1:18).

It follows, then, that all that are charged with godlessness or wickedness stand under his wrath and cannot obtain acceptance before God by their character or conduct.

That people are guilty and, therefore, inexcusable is evident, because they have enjoyed a revelation of God’s eternal power and divine nature and yet have rejected it (1:19-20).

Not only have they rejected this truth, they have given themselves up to idolatry (1:21-23).

The Pauline picture of the religious history of mankind is one of regression, not progression, of devolution, not evolution, downgrade, not upgrade. In unbelief man has passed from light to futility to folly. Thus, the divine wrath has found its justification in human rejection of "the truth of God" (1:18, 25).

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