Pastor’s Class Notes
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
“Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness”
Romans 1:24-32 Introduction
Verses 24-32 give the most realistic description in the Bible of the depths to which men allow themselves to plunge into evil. It is a dreadful picture of certain progress towards doom by those who cling to unrighteousness. It is a frightful scene, this view of man without God.
Barnhouse called these verses the most terrible in all the Bible. Karl Barth aptly entitled this section “The Night.”
The single Greek word (paradidomi) translated as God “gave them up (or over)” occurs in verses 24, 26, and 28. It is tolled three times, like the dreadful tolling of a death bell.
There is no good word for people who persist in ungodliness. They can expect only a “certain fearful expectation of judgment” (HB 10:27).
The restraining powers of the mass influence of Christianity has helped serve as a restraint in America. But every once in a while, even we hear of some act of violence or brutality or perversion that matches even the vilest deeds produced in the most pagan lands. And as our nation moves farther and farther away from the old landmarks, conditions will worsen and become more and more like what Paul describes here.
Rom. 1:23a “Wherefore. . .”
Whenever we see a “therefore” in Scripture, we should see what it is there for. The word here points back to verses which tell us the sad truth: men reject God. Man alone is to blame for the terrible condition described in this verse.
God has given man free will and will not violate that gift. It is a precious gift, but men take this awesome gift and make awful choices.
Since men choose to give up God, He can do nothing but give them up to the things they prefer over Him. Men who dishonor and degrade God are allowed to dishonor and degrade themselves.
Man is a vile creature when left to himself. Apart from the restraining power of God, any of us, though made only a little lower than angels, would make ourselves lower than demons. We are indebted to restraining grace for preserving any little particle of honor and decency among us.
When God withdraws His hand, there ceases to be anything to hold our lives against a sinful current. Without the hold of God, the current carries us over a deadly precipice.
Just loose the connection to godly living, and your life, like a load of coal cars, will rush by its own weight down the incline to destruction. As one preacher said it, “When a man starts down, it seems the whole universe is greased for the occasion.”
Men are free to reject God’s laws, but they are not free to do so without suffering the consequences. Men remove divine restraints and yell “freedom,” but they have actually removed their life preserver. The result is they begin to drown in a quagmire. God allows them to sink in the consequences of their willful folly.
The man who boasts of freedom or liberation is living an illusion. It is ironic the word “liberated” is often ascribed to pathetic people who are enslaved by their own lusts and passions. Men do not need freedom of choice as much as they need freedom from bad consequences. The only way to be free from painful consequences is to use your freedom of choice to choose God’s way.
Rom. 1:24b “. . .God also gave them up. . .”
The sinful life is a condemned life. It is the nearest thing to Hell this side of Hell. When men cast off God’s restraints and protection, they let Satan loose upon themselves. He tears and claws and rips and causes deep pain. A man cannot be given up to a greater slavery than to be given up to his own lust. This is a foretaste of Hell itself.
The lusts and desires of men burn on undiminished in Hell. The rich man craved for water. He still had natural desire present in him. A tragedy of Hell is that its inhabitants shall be dominated by lusts even there. “The eternal bodies of the damned will be one crawling mass of eternal frustration” (Barnhouse).
The doom of the lost is aptly pictured by Tantalus, who forever was condemned to two things. He stood before water which always receded from him when he stooped to drink. He also stood beneath fruit trees whose boughs were always blown out of his grasp whenever he reached to satisfy his desire. For eternity, Hell “will be desire without fulfillment, craving without satisfaction, longing without attainment and lust without accomplishment” (Barnhouse).
Men have a foretaste of that now. Sin is Satan’s salt water. It satisfies for a moment, but then leaves a craving stronger than ever before.
The punishment for continued sin includes the increased desire and liability to sin again. One sin “gives us over” to another. It is habit-forming. The more you sin, the easier it is to sin. Sin begets sin.
One evil deed is connected to a previous evil deed. They become a chain reaction. As Browning said, we pay the price of lies by being compelled to “lie on still.”
God gives men what they want. He gives them over to more sins, and sin is the destruction of the sinner. The avenger for sin is sin.
Rom. 1:24c “. . .to uncleanness. . .”
This is a terrible fate for anyone to experience. God only allows it as a last resort to save the sinner. A man can reach such a hardened state of corruption that he can only be cured by the excess of his own corruptions. It can sometimes be the only means left when all preceding appeals and punishments fail to bring repentance. Sometimes a father has to let his prodigal go feed the swine and eat husks. Paul delivered Hymeneus and Alexander “unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme” (I TM 1:20). Paul told the Corinthians that blatant sinners should be delivered “unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (I Cor. 5:5). It is painful medicine, but worthwhile if it brings deliverance.
God has done all He possibly can to win men to Himself. He introduced Himself in Egypt with deeds of power, gave His Son to die on a cross, wrote a Holy Book, and sends His Holy Spirit to plead with men.
Grace woos men, but they lunge away from their Lord as if He were abhorrent, and fall into a pit of their own making. Do not repeat the mistake of the masses. Receive Jesus.