In Romans 1 the Apostle introduced his theme of the gospel – the good news of judicial approval from God, received by God given persuasion, that in turn leads to trusting obedience. Why do we need God’s judicial approval? Because even though God is not seen directly, humanity knows a lot about Him because He is revealed in the things that He has made. But unrighteousness at the very core of people’s nature means that they suppress what they know, such that they do not honour God and change the truth about God for images of created things – humans, animals, birds and so on. For this reason, God has handed people over to their faulty thinking and the undercurrents of passion and desire rising up from deep within them.
Thus we see God’s settled anger being revealed from heaven in the general behavior of humanity, particularly in unnatural sexual relationships, and in people dishonoring their own physical bodies. Three times Paul tells us that in proportion to the degree that people fail to test their knowledge of God or hold on to and recognize God as God, He has handed people over to their desires.
1 v 24 – 32
Exactly in proportion to the fact that
They did not examine and test in order
To hold on to and recognize God in their experiential knowledge
God handed them over to
Their mind and reasoning not passing the test –
To manufacture and construct
That which is improper and unfitting
Having been filled to capacity
With all kinds of
Injustice, pain-ridden wickedness and
The desire for more possessions
An undercurrent of malice, full of
Embittered grudges, murder, quarrels, deceitful treachery
A malicious disposition
Whispering sneaky gossip and criticism
Slanderers, hating God,
Violently insolent, proud, arrogant and disdainful
Flaunting themselves in a boastful way
Contriving and inventing evil from within
Unwilling to be persuaded by parents
Unwise because they fail to put the facts together
Breaking agreements, unfeeling and without compassion.
They have known in experience
What God has announced to be judicially approved of –
That whoever performs such things as a regular practice
Are weighed and balanced and found to be deserving of death
Not only do they manufacture and construct these things
They also identify with, agree with and are of one mind with
Those who actively and regularly practice them
The Apostle presents us with a dynamic model or pattern of human behavior – a pattern that we shall see more of as we go on into later chapters. We only have to look around us to see the kinds of qualities listed above being evidenced in the world today. We see them displayed at every level of society from royalty, to political leaders, to bankers, to bosses of companies – right down to the lowest levels – to workers and the unemployed. As we look at this list of behaviors we might think that it is a bit of an extreme caricature, but these are the end results, the kinds of behaviors and attitudes that are the end product if people continue to follow the undercurrents of their inner passions, desires and lusts in an unregulated way.
Although this list seems like a caricature, in reality, people do not display all of these attitudes and behaviors to an absolute degree. Rather, as the Apostle points out, God hands people over to their inner desires exactly in proportion to the degree that they do not examine and test their knowledge in order to hold on to and recognize God. The fact is that we only have to watch or listen to the news, or read a newspaper, to readily see people exhibiting some of these qualities – sometimes to an unacceptable degree.
When people see injustice, greed, corruption, violence, lack of compassion, arrogance and so on, they often complain: ‘Where is God?’ or ‘Why does God allow such and such a thing to happen?’ The Apostle tells us that what people are seeing is the anger of God being revealed from heaven. But many people these days want to portray God as all-loving, all-forgiving, all-merciful, but still ‘fair’, but of course, what we see around us does not fit in with such a view of God. As a result, many people then conclude that God does not exist – but the Apostle tells us that their thinking has become aimless, pointless and without understanding, their very core is darkened. They assert and affirm themselves to be wise and skilled but they have become dull, sluggish and turned to foolishness. They have changed the honor, renown and splendor of God into forms and images of God being a ‘big man in the sky’ or even of God being like some form of animal. People often agree together on some of these conclusions and say in effect ‘If God does not exist, well, let’s eat drink and be merry – this is not a rehearsal – let’s get what we can out of life.’ And so they begin to approve, to varying degrees, some of these qualities that the Apostle has listed.