Summary: Unrighteous Gentiles

1:18-30 opens up a new section in Romans. After introducing the righteousness which comes from God (1:17), a theme he develops at length (3:21-5:21), Paul presents the overwhelming evidence of man’s sinfulness, underscoring how desperately he needs this righteousness that only God can provide. He presents God’s case against the irreligious, immoral pagan (1:18-32; The Gentiles) the religious, outwardly moral person (2:1-3:8; the Jews); and concludes by showing that all men alike deserve God’s judgment (3:9-20).

Romans 1:18-19, “18For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.

Wrath of God is not an impulsive outburst of anger aimed capriciously at people whom God does not like. It is the settled determined response of a righteous God against sin (Psalm 2:5, 12; 45:7; 75:8; 67:6; 67:49-51; 90:7-9; Isa 51:17; Jer 25:15-16; John 3:36; Romans 9:22; Eph 5:6; Col 3:5-6).

Is revealed: This is better translated “is constantly revealed.” This word essentially means to uncover, make visible or make known. God reveals His wrath in two ways: 1) indirectly, through natural consequences of violating His universal moral law, and 2) directly through His personal intervention (the Old Testament record-from the sentence passed upon Adam and Eve to the worldwide flood, from the fire and brimstone that leveled Sodom to the Babylonian captivity-clearly displays this kind of intervention_. The most graphic revelation of God’s holy wrath and hatred against sin was poured out in divine judgment on His Son on the Cross.

God has various kinds of wrath as well: 1) eternal wrath, which is hell; 2) eschatological wrath, which is the final Day of the Lord; 3) cataclysmic wrath like the flood and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah; ) consequential wrath, which is the principle of sowing and reaping; and 5) the wrath of abandonment, which is removing restraint and letting people go to their sins (for examples of this wrath read Psalm 81:11-12; Proverbs 1:23-31; Hosea 4:17). Here it is in the fifth form, God’s abandoning the wicked continually throughout history to pursue their sin and its consequences (vv.24-32).

Ungodliness refers to a lack of reverence for devotion to, and worship of the true God- a defective relationship with Him (Jude 14-15). Unrighteousness refers to the result of ungodliness: a lack of conformality in thought, word and deed to the character and law of God.

Suppress the truth refers to the evidence from conscience (1:19,2:14), creation (1:20), and God’s Word is irrefutable, men choose to resist and oppose God’s truth by holding fast to their sin (Psalm 14:1; John 3:19-20). Manifest in them shows that God has soveringly planted evidence of His existence in the very nature of man by reason and moral law (1:20-21; 28,32; 2:15).

Romans 1:20-23, “20For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21because, 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. 22Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man--and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.”

Invisible attributes refers to two specifically mentioned in this verse, His eternal power and Godhead. This just goes to the lengths to show us that God’s sovernity is active in the affairs of man. If God’s love is not active in the affairs of humanity guiding the hand of the Holy Spirit in the affairs of trials, then we have a problem. Some would wish to state that God’s activity is limited in some sense, but this can never be the case. God is and always will be active because His sovernity is still active through the governance of the Holy Sprit in the affairs of man. It is invisible in the sense that it works to govern and regulate man’s sin, but also His love is best revealed through our present circumstances as we submit to His ways, for they are higher than any other way that we can concoct.

By things that are made: This refers clearly to the fact that creation declievers a clear, unmistakeable message about God’s person (Pss 19:1-8; 94:9; Acts 14:15-17; 17:23-28). His eternal power refers to the Creator who made all that we see around us and constantly sustains it, must be a being of awesome power. Godhead: That is, His divine nature particularly His faithfulness (Gen 8:21-22), kindness and graciousness (Acts 14:17).

They are without excuse: Yeshua holds all men responsible for their refusal to acknowledge what He has shown them of Himself in creation. Even those who have never had the opportunity to hear the gospel have received a clear witness about the existence and character of God- and have suppressed it. If a person will respond to the revelation he has, even if it is solely natural revelation, God will provide some means for that person to hear the gospel (Acts 8:26-39; 10:1-48; 17:27).

Knew God: Man is conscious of God’s existence, power and divine nature through general revelation (vv.19-20). They did not glorify Him: Man’s chief end is to glorify God (Lev 10:3; 1 Chron 16:24-29; Psalm 148; Rom 15:5-6) and Scripture constantly demands it (Psalm 29:1-2; 1 Cor 10:31; Rev 4:11). To glorify Him is to honor Him, to acknowledge His attributes, and to praise Him for His perfections (Ex 34:5-7). It is to recognize His glory and extol Him for it. Failing to give Him glory is man’s greatest affront to His creator (Acts 12:22-23). When we fail to give the glory that His name is due, we openly spit upon His face. God is worthy of all the praise due to His name for He has created us in His image, it is us in our free will, which He granted to us, who rejected the image of the only God who is worthy to be worshipped. In some ways, when we openly sin, we do the same all over, for He has given us another chance at liberation through new life, through His blood to redeem the mistakes that we as human beings did through our own consequences, thus through His blood we are made new positionally and justified before His sight to bear His name, to worship Him, and to give Him the praise that He so desires from the depths of our hearts.

Nor were they thankful: They refused to acknowledge that every good thing they enjoyed came from God (Matthew 5:45; Acts 14:15-17; 1 Tim 6:17; James 1:17). Futile: Man’s search for meaning and purpose will produce only vain, meaningless conclusions. Hearts were darkened: When man rejects the truth, the darkness of spiritual falsehood replaces it (John 3:19-20).

Professing to be wise, they became fools: Man rationalizes his sin and proves his utter foolishness by devising and believing his own philosophies about God, the universe, and himself (Pss 14:1; 53:1).

Changed the glory into an image: They substitute the worship of idols for the worship of the true God. Historians report that many ancient cultures did not originally have idols. For example Persian (Herodotus; the Histories 1:31), Rome (Varro in Augustine; the City of God, 4:31) even Greece and Egypt (Lucian; the Syrian Goddess; 34) had no idolatry at their founding. The four century A.D. historian Eusebius reported that the oldest civilizations had no idols. The earliest biblical record of idolatry was among Abram’s family in Ur (Josh 24:2). The first commandment forbids is (Exodus 20:3-5), and the prophets continually ridiculed those who foolishly practiced it (Is 44:9-17; 2 Kings 17:13-16). Although the false gods which men worship do not exist, demons can often impersonate them (1 Cor 10:20).

1:24-32 this section describes the downward spiral of the wrath of abandonment inn the life man when God abandons him. Paul shows the essence (vv.24,25), the expression (vv.26-27), and the extent (vv.28-32) of man’s sinfulness.

Romans 1:24, “24Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves,”

God also gave them up: This is a judical term used in the Greek for lording over a prisioner to his sentence. When men consistently abandon God, He will abandon them (Judges 10:13; 2 Chron 15:12; 24:20; Ps 81:11-12; Hos 4:17; Matt 15:14; Acts 7:38-42; 14:16). He accomplishes this 1) indirectly and immediately, by removing His restraint and allowing their sin to run its inevitable course, and 2) directly and eventually, by specific acts of divine judgment and punishment.

Uncleanness: A general term often used for decaying matter, like the contents of a grace. It speaks here of sexual immorality (2 Cor 12:21; Gal 5:19-23; Eph 5:3; 1 Thes 4:7), which begins in the heart and moves to the shame of the body.

Romans 1:25, “25who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.”

The lie: The denial of God’s existence and His right to be obeyed and glorified (vv.19-21; Is 44:20; Jer 13:25; John 8:44).

Romans 1:26, “26For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature.”

Vile passions: Identified in vv.25-27 as homosexuality a sin so roundly condemned in Scripture (Gen 19; Lev 18:22; 1 Cor 6:9-11; Gal 5:19-21; Eph 5:3-5; 1 Tim 1:9-10; Jude 7). Women: Rather than the normal Greek term for women, this general word used here for female. Paul mentions women first to show the extent of debauchery under the wrath of abondment; because in most cultures women are the last to be affected by moral collapse. Vile passions refers to where we become irrational pleasure seekers, dominated by a perverted sensuality, rather than thoughtful servants of each other and responsible stewards of God’s good gifts (1:26-27).

Romans 1:27, “27Likewise 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. “

Here the law of sowing and reaping (Gal 6:7-8), takes effect as Paul refers to the self-destructive nature of this sin, of which AIDS is one frightening evidence. Homosexual acts are sin, in this passage the point is not that homosexuality is a sin that should be punished. Rather homosexuality itself is the punishment. Having rejected God and becoming idolaters, some men have been given over to their shameful passions. They receive the penalty of their error. This goes smack in the face of the established quo on this subject, but it is the truth. Homosexuality is a choice not something that everyone is grown up with. Sin is sin, and its I called by its name. You can either choose to repent and receive or live in the sin of homosexuality. Many have grossly abused this text to do bad things to homosexuals. I do not suggest any of these. We are to confront the person living in open rebellion against the Lord in a loving fashion not in a hateful fashion. In the same way though, I merely want to point out that using scientific evidence does not refute the evidence of sin that homosexuality is. Homosexuality is a sin that is the physical reality of a sick spiritual condition. It is the living reality of sin in the mind, heart and soul, and the total rejection of the free gift of God’s mercy.

Many have accepted that homosexuality is okay in Christian circles. Scripturally this is an impossible position to hold as was outlined before. Homosexuality is forbidden in Scripture, because it runs counter to God’s established plans for marriage. God did not create man to be with man, or woman with woman; rather, God created man and woman to be together in the marriage relationship, and saw that it was good.

Romans 1:28, “28And 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;”

God gave them over: This refers to the fact that God will always honor the request of those who seek it. God gave man free will and therein will not violate the request of those who have sought after their own ways. If man chooses to reject God, God is just honoring the request as a banker would at a bank. Man cannot hold God responsible for his/her own decisions, rather humanity has to take responsibility for the God given right that God has given to them to receive Him or to reject Him. God gives people over to their sins, because they mind is debased.

Debased: This translates a Greek word that means “not passing the test”. It was often used to describe useless, worthless metals, discarded because they contained too much impurity. God has tested man’s mind and found them worthless and useless. (Jer 6:30). A debased mind is wherein we come under terrible spiritual bondage that makes us incapable of doing good; we become slaves to sin (1:28).

Romans 1:29-32, “29being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality,[c] wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving,[d] unmerciful; 32who, 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.”

These verses contain one of the most extensive lists of sins in all Scripture. The list shows the exhaustive sweep of human moral depravity. Society tends to place certain sins in a category, but God judges all sin. These sins particularly reveal our rebellious hearts. All, without exception, deserve God’s punishment. The Apostle Paul concludes this severe but important message with a list of ugly consequences, including the approval of each other’s sins (1:29-32). The candor of this list is painful, but honest. Any resistance to sin seems to be overridden by a compulsive search for freedom from all restraints to fulfill unbridled pleasure. Rules, laws, values, traditions, or any other restraints are steadily removed.

Thus, like people of Sodom and Gomorrah, we are traveling the road to disaster. God declared that because of our sins, we are deserving of death (1:32), inexcusable (2)1), and treasuring up wrath and judgment for ourselves (2:5). This is true of every human being (3:10-12; Psalm 51:4). The Book of Romans is very clear spelling out the eternal implications of this sinful rebellion. It warns us that sin is real. It is not just bad feelings or an overly sensitive conscience. We have alienated ourselves from a righteous and holy God, and there is a penalty to pay-the penalty of eternal earth of ever lasting separation from Him.

However, Romans does not stop there. It tells of God’s wonderful provision for us in Yeshua who brought the opportunity for peace with God, access by faith to His grace, and hope of returning to His glory (Romans 5:1-5). To demonstrate His love Yeshua paid the penalty for our sins on the Cross (5:8). Thus with Paul we can, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Cor 9:15).

Pastor David Jenkins