Pastor David B. Curtis


God Gave Them Over

Romans 1:24-32

Delivered 12/12/2010

We are looking at the second section of Romans, which runs from 1:18-3:20. In this section we see that God is the righteousness Judge whose wrath is extended toward the covenant breakers.

Paul says that God's wrath IS being revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men "Who suppress the truth in unrighteousness"--the word "suppress" here is present tense-- hey were doing it in Paul's day. Who in Paul's day had the truth but were suppressing it? It was Israel, and only Israel!

I said last week that verses 19-23 of Romans 1 are not teaching natural theology. Paul is not teaching that all men are without excuse before God because God is revealed in creation. Paul teaches that men are without excuse because they sinned in Adam:

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned-- Romans 5:12 NASB

Men are without excuse before God because "all sinned." The Greek here employs the aorist tense, which indicates that at some point in the past all men sinned, and that point was when Adam sinned. When he sinned, I sinned.

God constituted Adam as the federal head or representative of the entire race. Adam acted on our behalf as our representative. Adam's sin has been put to our account--this is imputation.

Paul says in verse 19, "God made it evident to them"--who did God make Himself visible or known to? This is referring to Israel! The nations had never heard of God.

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. Romans 1:20 NASB

I take the creation here to be Israel and not the physical creation. God's power was seen in the exodus. Israel and only Israel had seen His power and received His ordinances.

Paul says in verse 21, "For even though they knew God"--do all men know God? No, they do not! Only Israel knew God, being in covenant with Him.

Then in verse 23 Paul says, "They Exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image"--Who did this? It was Israel! Israel in the wilderness swapped the living God for the golden calf.

For our study this morning I want us to back up to verse 24 and will go through verse 32. In verse 24, 26, and 28 we see the phrase, "God gave them over."

Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. Romans 1:24 NASB
For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, Romans 1:26 NASB
And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, Romans 1:28 NASB

In these three occurrences the apostle speaks about men, as first, given up to "impurity" in verses 24 and 25. Then in the next two verses, he speaks of men as given up to "degrading passions." And, finally, in the third time he speaks of men as given up to a "depraved mind."

So these verses speak of God giving up on Israel because of idolatry. This is something most people could never consider; God giving men up. That doesn't seem to fit with God is love. But remember we are talking about the wrath of God, which is the wrath of a judge administering justice.

The idea of God giving Israel up is a frequent theme in the Bible. The same Greek word used for "gave them over" in our text in Romans is used in the LXX for God handing Israel over to her enemies. Because they knew God, but turned from Him, God gave them over to judgment!

"But My people did not listen to My voice, And Israel did not obey Me. "So I gave them over to the stubbornness of their heart, To walk in their own devices. Psalms 81:11-12 NASB

This psalm is telling of the exodus narrative, warning of idolatry. Israel would not listen, so God gave them up.

Ephraim is joined to idols; Let him alone. Hosea 4:17 NASB

Ephraim is a term designating the nation of Israel, and because of their idolatry God says, "Let him alone." God gives up on the Northern Kingdom.

Notice what Jesus says in Matthew:

Then the disciples came and said to Him, "Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this statement?" But He answered and said, "Every plant which My heavenly Father did not plant shall be uprooted. "Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit." Matthew 15:12-14 NASB

Jesus, speaking of the rulers of Israel, more specifically the Pharisees, says, "Let them alone."

Let's look at Stephen's speech to the Jewish leaders in Acts:

"Our fathers were unwilling to be obedient to him, but repudiated him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt, SAYING TO AARON, 'MAKE FOR US GODS WHO WILL GO BEFORE US; FOR THIS MOSES WHO LED US OUT OF THE LAND OF EGYPT--WE DO NOT KNOW WHAT HAPPENED TO HIM.' "At that time they made a calf and brought a sacrifice to the idol, and were rejoicing in the works of their hands. "But God turned away and delivered them up to serve the host of heaven; as it is written in the book of the prophets, 'IT WAS NOT TO ME THAT YOU OFFERED VICTIMS AND SACRIFICES FORTY YEARS IN THE WILDERNESS, WAS IT, O HOUSE OF ISRAEL? Acts 7:39-42 NASB

"God turned away and delivered them up"--the word "delivered" is the same word used in our text in Romans. God gave Israel up because of their idolatry.

Why did God give them over?:

and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. Romans 1:23-24 NASB

Paul begins the 24th verse with the word "therefore," this adverbial particle explains the result of exchanging the glory of God for idols. And so, from Idiolatry on the part of man comes the natural inference of the judgment of God.

The phrase, "gave them over" is from the Greek paradoken, which is the first aorist active indicative of paradidomi. It means to turn someone over to judgment, which is easy to see if you follow its use. Look at Matthew:

Now when Jesus heard that John had been taken into custody, He withdrew into Galilee; Matthew 4:12 NASB

"Had been taken" is paradidomi, the idea is he's thrown into punishment, he's thrown into judgment:

"Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, so that your opponent may not hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. Matthew 5:25 NASB

"May not hand" is paradidomi. It is used again of turning someone over to a judge for sentencing. In the first case, turn them over to a prison. The second case, turn them over for judgment:

"But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues; Matthew 10:17 NASB

Again turning you over for some kind of sentencing, turning you over to some judge:

"And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. Matthew 18:34 NASB

"Handed him over"--is the word paradidomi. In other words, he turned him over to the torturers because of non-payment of his debt to some who would punish him. Again it speaks very specifically about a judicial setting and a judgment rendered by a judge or by some kind of authority.

Now when morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people conferred together against Jesus to put Him to death; and they bound Him, and led Him away and delivered Him to Pilate the governor. Matthew 27:1-2 NASB

Here "delivered" is paradidomi. This word is used in several different ways, but it has a very unique usage in that it very often refers to turning someone over to a punishment, turning someone over to an imprisonment, turning someone over to a severe judgment. Let's look at one more:

For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment; 2 Peter 2:4 NASB

Here God "committed" (paradidomi) them to pits of darkness.

So when Paul says three times in our text in Romans that "God gave them over," he is talking about giving them over to a punishment. He gave them over to an imprisonment. He gave them over to those who would inflict pain or to that which would inflict pain upon them. Did this ever happen to Israel? Absolutely!

Now what exactly does it mean, "God gave them over"? Some have said that what this means is that God has permitted man to fall into the consequences of his sin. And so, they give it a permissive sense.

Vincent's Word Studies says, "These people had already wilfully deserted God who merely left them to their own self-determination and self-destruction, part of the price of man's moral freedom." That is a view that has been popular since the time of Origen and the time of John Chrysostom. This verb, however, is a very active verb. It does not say that God suffered them to turn to uncleanness or allowed them to, but rather that God gave them over or gave them up. It is a verb that is put in the active voice stressing the activity of God.

To say that this means that God permitted them to fall into the natural consequences of their act is not as strong as the language demands. It's not that He withdrew His hand, God positively gave men over to judgment.

In contrast to the use of this word in Romans, look at:

and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. Ephesians 4:19 NASB

"Have given" here is paradidomi, but he uses it here in such a sense that the human responsibility of the act is stressed. This affirms what we try to say over and over again, that our God is a sovereign God and controls the affairs of this universe. There is not one thing that is not under His sovereign control.

And so, we have God giving men over, and we have men giving themselves over. God inflicts His judgment, His judicial penalty upon men, and men are responsible for the consequences:

Now the Spirit of God came on Azariah the son of Oded, and he went out to meet Asa and said to him, "Listen to me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin: the LORD is with you when you are with Him. And if you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you. 2 Chronicles 15:1-2 NASB

God is acting in a positive overt move of judgment. It isn't that God just says, "Ah, that's enough of you," and turns around and takes a walk. It is that God is positively inflicting men with His wrath. He abandons us totally to our sinfulness.

Now just to temper all this judgment with a little grace notice what we see in Corinthians. In 1 Corinthians chapter 6 you have a list that's almost identical to Romans chapter 1. It says:

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 NASB

Now that sounds harsh until we look at the next verse:

Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 6:11 NASB

So God has abandoned men, yes. But He also calls men back to Himself. The abandonment is from that knowledge where men knew God and ran from God, and now God runs and calls them back.

Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. Romans 1:24 NASB

Notice here what it is that God gives them over to­impurity. The Greek word here is akatharsia, which literally means: "the contents of a grave." It came to mean rot or filth or decay or even dirt. Its moral meaning has to do with sexual vice and sexual sin. In Paul's thinking, it primarily refers to perversion of the sexual area of life. So men are given up to impurity by a judicial act of God.

Paul says at the end of verse 24, "So that their bodies would be dishonored among them"--They pervert God's intended use for the body. They turn to fornication, sexual activities, sexual deviations, sexual perversion, sexual promiscuity. It kind of sounds like our society. Sexual perversion is a judgment, God's will is that we abstain from sexual sin:

For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 NASB

The terrible disasters that come into people's lives because of their incessant sinfulness is the outworking of the wrath of God.

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

God gave them over to impurity because they exchanged the truth of God for the lie. Sexual immorality is a consequence of idolatry. They had the truth of God, and they didn't want it and they rejected it and they exchanged it for the lie. This means they exchanged the true God for false gods.

They believed the lie that God is not God, God is not to be praised and honored and glorified and obeyed, they believed the lie. It is not unusual that God is called the truth, and that idols are called the lie. Jesus called Himself the truth.

Talking about idolatry Isaiah writes:

No one recalls, nor is there knowledge or understanding to say, "I have burned half of it in the fire and also have baked bread over its coals. I roast meat and eat it. Then I make the rest of it into an abomination, I fall down before a block of wood!" He feeds on ashes; a deceived heart has turned him aside. And he cannot deliver himself, nor say, "Is there not a lie in my right hand?" Isaiah 44:19-20 NASB

Isaiah describes a sculptor who made for himself a god who reaches out to take hold of the god and never thinks, "Is there not a lie in my right hand?"

Let me ask you something, Is idolatry a problem today in America? If you have been paying attention to what I said, you'll know that the answer is yes. Sexual immorality is rampant in America. so we must have turned from God to Idols. Men today worship cars, they worship houses, they worship clothes, they worship their bodies, they worship women, they worship success, they worship money, they worship sports, they worship false gods in a religious environment. We have idols ad infinitum, ad nauseum. Look what Paul says in:

Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. Colossians 3:5 NASB

When this word "greed," or "covetousness" appears in Scripture without being linked with idolatry, it is referring, of course, to lusting after money and the things that money can buy. But in this particular context, linked with this word, "idolatry," it is greed to possess another person's body. "That," says Paul, "is idolatry"--a powerful longing to lay hands on some other person and possess his or her body. Its when you allow another person to become so dominant in your thinking that he or she takes the place of God to you.

Bottom line is whatever is our ultimate concern is our god in a practical way. And so, we could all be guilty of idolatry.

So the wrath of God is continually being revealed as God gives men up to the consequences of their own rejection. And we see a progression here from impurity to degrading passions. Paul now talks about the worse most disgraceful disgusting degrading passion there is, homosexuality:

For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, 27 and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. Romans 1:26-27 NASB

The word "function" is the Greek word chresis, which is a very well established term for sexual intercourse. And that is exactly what he's talking about. They carry on a sexual activity contrary to the intention of the creator. It's against nature. It's against the God-given creation. It means that they do something that is utterly opposite the way God made them.

Now isn't it striking that Paul begins with women? Perhaps the reason that he begins with women is because he's thinking of the Book of Genesis, and he's thinking also of divine judgment. In the Book of Genesis, when God executes His judgment after the fall of man, He begins with the serpent, and then He moves to the woman.

In the Greek text the words translated "women" (thelus; v. 26) and "men" (arsen, v. 27) mean: "females" and "males." Paul's language is the language of sex.

Homosexuality is an unnatural relationship to oneself and to one's body. And, consequently, if we may believe the words of the Apostle Paul, it is contrary to God's order. This is the teaching of the whole of the Bible. In other words, the apostle says that the relationship of heterosexuality is that which is natural.

Natural here means in keeping with how God has designed people, and unnatural refers to behavior that is contrary to how God has made us. When man forsakes the author of nature, he forsakes the order of nature.

Just as idolatry is unnatural, it is contrary to God's intention for man. So homosexuality is unnatural, it, too, is contrary to God's intention for man. Just as idiolatry is a violation and perversion of what God intended, so too homosexual relations are contrary to what God planned when He created man and woman.

We see here a deadly sequence of events. Rejection of God's revelation leads to idolatry, and idolatry leads to immorality, and man at last plummets into the grossest perversions imaginable--homosexuality.

Paul says in verse 27, "They burned in their desire toward another." I am told that there is a level of lust among homosexuals that is not known among heterosexuals. It is not unusual for average homosexual male to have 300 partners per year. It is not uncommon for them to have to go to the hospital and have all manner of articles extracted from deep within them.

In the book, Where death delights; the Story of Dr. Milton Helpern and ForensicMedicine, Chapter 13 explains why "brutal, multiple wound cases" denote a homosexual murder. Dr. Helpern, who was the Chief Medical Examiner for New York City, says, "I did 60 thousand autopsies, and I am not one to make a judgment on life style, but I would warn anyone who chooses a homosexual life style to get ready for the consequences. In 60 thousand autopsies," he said, "I can take one look at a corpse and tell you if it was killed by a homosexual because of the massive mutilations."

Any study of the homosexual community shows a higher rate of suicide, lower tolerance to disease and sickness, a shorter life-span by 25-30 years, the likelihood of infections and debilitating and deadly diseases, and the decreased likelihood of a stable, nurturing family life.

There is a burning level of lust that is beyond anything that a heterosexual understands. There are frequent murders and other crimes that are beyond description.

Just in case you think that homosexuality just came out of the closet, as if it is something new in our day, this sin was a common practice in first century Rome. All the great philosophers extolled it and practiced it, for the most part. Men like Socrates and other great thinkers of Greece were homosexuals. Of the first fifteen Roman emperors, fourteen were homosexuals, and some gave themselves blatantly and openly to this sin. It was common in the Roman world. It was said of Julius Caesar, "That he was every woman's man and every man's woman."

It seems like we are following the path of Rome, homosexuality is becoming as common in our day as it was in Paul's. Today films, plays, clubs, now even churches and ministers apologize for, and even glorify, the unnatural practices of homosexuality. The commentator Scroggs attempts to minimize Paul's negative remarks on homosexuality by arguing that he is simply drawing on Hellenistic Jewish tradition, that probably only pederasty is being condemned. Pederasty from the Greek means a lover of boys. It is used of one who practices anal intercourse especially with a boy. And Paul says, "Men with men."

Contemporary homosexuals insist that these verses mean that it is perverse for a heterosexual male or female to engage in homosexual relations, but it is not perverse for a homosexual male or female to do so since homosexuality is such a person's natural preference. This is strained exegesis unsupported by the Bible. The only natural sexual relationship the Bible recognizes is a heterosexual one (Gen. 2:21-24; Matt. 19:4-6) within marriage.

A letter to the editor in an issue of The Wittenburg Door read:

You have often supported the cause of the Christian feminists with a compassion for them and their struggle with the Apostle Paul. It is my hope that you have the same compassion for the Christian gays which we represent. Homosexuality can be sinful, but it can be Christian as well. Any form of sexuality (homo or hetero) can be abused, but it can also be used for the glory of God and the blessing of God's people. I would be interested in sharing more if you are interested. I only hope that you have some compassion for the gays who struggle with Paul and who love the Lord Jesus Christ.

What is the basic issue involved here? The same as with the feminist movement. It is the issue of our response to the inspired, inerrant, infallible, authoritative Word of God. Their struggle is not with Paul; it is with the Word of God. Rejection of His Word opens the door to every kind of evil.

In reinterpreting Bible passages on homosexuality, many take on the church's historic understanding of the issue. They proclaim: "l) the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was not homosexuality but "forced sexual activity" and inhospitality; 2) the Levitical injunction against homosexuality is as meaningless as injunctions against eating rare meat or wearing mixed fabrics; and 3) Paul's admonishment against homosexuality was against a particular kind of homosexual act." This is all nonsense!

Was the nation Israel ever involved in homosexuality? I am saying that these verses don't speak of natural revelation, but of Israel's specific covenant relationship with God. So was this ever true of Israel? In Judges 19 we have the story of a Levite and his concubine who are traveling:

So they passed along and went their way, and the sun set on them near Gibeah which belongs to Benjamin. Judges 19:14 NASB

So they stopped in Gibeah to spend the night there. They were sitting in the city square:

Then behold, an old man was coming out of the field from his work at evening. Now the man was from the hill country of Ephraim, and he was staying in Gibeah, but the men of the place were Benjamites. Judges 19:16 NASB

The old man invites them to come to his home and he cares for them:

While they were celebrating, behold, the men of the city, certain worthless fellows, surrounded the house, pounding the door; and they spoke to the owner of the house, the old man, saying, "Bring out the man who came into your house that we may have relations with him." Judges 19:22 N ASB

This is the same thing that happened at Sodom with Lot:

Before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, surrounded the house, both young and old, all the people from every quarter; and they called to Lot and said to him, "Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may have relations with them." Genesis 19:4-5 NASB

This is speaking of homosexual relations. We know what God did to Sodom because of their sin. But do you know what happened to the Benjamites? They couldn't have the Levite, so they took his concubine and raped her all night. When the Levite left in the morning his concubine was dead on the door step. So he cut her up in twelve pieces and sent her throughout Israel. This caused all Israel to go to battle against the tribe of Benjamin:

The men of Israel then turned back against the sons of Benjamin and struck them with the edge of the sword, both the entire city with the cattle and all that they found; they also set on fire all the cities which they found. Judges 20:48 NASB

They basically wiped out the tribe of Benjamin because of homosexuality. God gave them over!

The remaining five verses in Romans are all one sentence in the Greek.

And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, Romans 1:28 NASB

That phrase, "they did not see fit," is somewhat difficult to render in English. The Greek word is dokimazo, which means: "to put to the test or to test the value and quality of something or to approve after testing." It means that they have taken a good look at God; they even understood the truth of God, But they decided not to approve of God as God. In their judgment, God is not worthy to be worshiped and honored.

The word translated as "depraved" is from the Greek adokimos, it is a play on words from the term dokimazo, translated as: "they did not see fit." While men did not approve of God, God gave men over to their unapproved minds. It literally means: "rejected" or "disqualified" or rejected after failing the test. The word was used in reference to testing the genuineness of precious metals or coins. Those found lacking the genuine stuff were adokimos--rejected.

being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; Romans 1:29-31 NASB

This is the longest list of this type in the New Testament. Its purpose is to show the scope of social evils that results when God hands people over to a depraved mind after they refuse to acknowledge Him.

God gives them up, and they are literally filled with all unrighteousness. Paul is not saying that they were in danger of judgment. That is not Paul's theory at all. He is saying that these things that we are talking about, the spread of immorality, the spread of sexual sin against God, the spread of violence, the spread of crime, IS the judgment of God. It is not that they were in danger of judgment, it is that these things are the judgment of God.

and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them. Romans 1:32 NASB

Do men know the ordinance or requirements of God? Israel "knew" the ordinance of God, they knew that their actions were worthy of death, and they not only did them anyway, but they approved of others who practiced them.

If you think this is shocking, you just need to read the history of Israel. They had full light, and they did this. And they knew they were worthy of death, and they did it anyway.

Israel knew God, turned from God to idols, and God gave them over to sin. What we see clearly in this text is that God's judgment on men from turning from Him is sin. This should tell you something of the destructiveness of sin.

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