Romans 1:24-32 (ESV)
Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
Wow. Paul really lets ‘em have it. What’s up with that?
Paul is shocking us with some examples of how bad things can get for unbelievers. But the point isn’t how bad things can get; it’s how things get that bad.
Paul makes an airtight case that the key to this chamber of horrors is idolatry. This started in yesterday’s passage (in verse 23) noting that they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
Today’s passage starts with “Therefore” as Paul begins the description of their decent into chaos. This happens, “because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator.” Paul notes that it’s for this reason God gave them up, and he names a few more sins. Finally, before the bulk of his list of horrors, he says, “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.”
But this passage isn’t about the specific sins listed; it’s about the idolatry behind them.
People don’t see the horrors of idolatry because they don’t think about what sin is. The individual sins Paul listed may be revolting but they’re just surface symptoms, not the root problem. Sin is, at its heart, rebellion against God. It’s the opposite of fealty to the Lord.
Idolatry is distilled sin. It’s declaring a different god and worshipping that god. It deliberately separates you from the real God, and that’s the path to hell.
Little children, keep yourselves from idols. – 1 John 5:21 (ESV)
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