And Away We Go
Today I am going to preach a message that has gotten me in trouble before. In fact, once it caused me to lose my job. I know these things will not be easy to hear. I also know that my words may be misunderstood or taken out of context or may be used to draw conclusions different from the ones I am drawing. Nevertheless I am compelled to deliver this message because I believe it is God’s message for us today. It is a continuation of last week’s message on the wrath of God.
This passage has for its theme the judgment of God upon a world gone mad with sin. When we read it, we come face to face with “our true condition” and any of us would rather not think about that.
Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse called this the most terrible passage in the whole Bible.
When God Abandons Man
When we turn to consider the text, the first feature that attracts our attention is a certain phrase that is repeated three times.
Verse 24 — “God gave them over”
Verse 26 — “God gave them over”
Verse 28 — “He gave them over”
The word in Greek is paredoken.
The King James translates it as “God gave them up.”
Barclay renders it “God abandoned them.”
J. B. Phillips says, “They gave up God. So God gave them up.”
It is a very strong word, meaning that act of God whereby he hands over the human race for judgment because of their sins. He hands them over to the ramifications, the consequences, the wages of their sin.
It’s as if God has said, “All right. If you want to turn away from me, Go for it! I won’t try to stop you. But you’ll have to face the consequences of your own actions.”
This passage, then, describes the downward descent of the human race as it steadily moves away from God. Each step takes man further away from God and deeper into moral depravity.
Stage 1 is bad, Stage 2 worse, Stage 3 worse still. In the end society has turned all moral values upside down.
What is the judgment of God when men turn away from him?
God “gives them up” to their own devices. He lets them follow their own desires.
He doesn’t try to stop their meteoric descent into the abyss of evil.
God “abandons” the human race by letting men reap what they sow.
There is a redemptive purpose that stands behind the abandonment of God. By letting mankind go its own way, he is not only punishing them. He is also allowing them to see the emptiness of life without him.
It is only when a man comes to the end of himself that he is ready to think about Jesus Christ. But when that moment of emptiness comes, when he finally faces the “God-shaped vacuum” inside, when he discovers that disobedience only leads to pain, when he reaps the bitter harvest of his own sin, then and only then has he become a candidate for the grace of God!
In addiction treatment they use a term, “bottom.”
The bottom is that point to which a person must come before they can desire or receive help.