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0205 The World of Paganism

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Encounter Radio Outline #0205                                                                   

Air date: 2/3/02

The World of Paganism

Romans 1:18-32

by Dr. Stephen F. Olford



Introduction: Paul sets out to establish the fact that man requires righteousness, whoever he is, whatever he is, and wherever he is. With ruthless logic and deep insight, the apostle exposes human need in the light of God's holy demands. His orderly mind marshals mankind under four headings:


             The world of paganism  (1:18-32)

             The world of moralism  (2:1-16)

             The world of Judaism  (2:17-3:8)

             The world of humanism  (3:9-20)

I. Righteousness Required by the World of Paganism  (vv. 18-32)

Paul begins by declaring that "the wrath of God is revealed...against all ungodliness and unrighteousness" (v. 18). In these two words of terrible significance he gathers up the spiritual and moral bankruptcy of the pagan world.

A. The Ungodliness of the World of Paganism  (vv. 18-28)


Ungodliness is mainly sin against God. In the verses that follow observe how this sin leads man, who is made in God's image, into unspeakable paganism. Even the unregenerate can discern truth through the twofold light of conscience and creation (v. 19).


B. The Deterioration into Paganism  (vv. 21-23)

To illustrate how ungodliness leads to degradation, Paul enumerates six steps of human descent into paganism: the Deposition of God, the Deprecation of God, the Defamation of God, the Desecration of God, the Disputation of God, and the Deformation of God. 


II.  The Unrighteousness of the World of Paganism  (vv. 18-32)

Unrighteousness is mainly sin against man. It is the result of the self-withdrawal of God from the scene of human activity, so that sin works itself out with unrestrained license. God's attitude to such sinfulness is one of "wrath" (v. 18), while His activity is one of "judgment" (v. 32). Paul reveals that when man rejects God, God rejects man; He gives him up. Notice that in divine rejection, God gives man up to:

A.  The Unrighteousness of Sensual Idolatry  (vv. 24-25)


Civilization provides no remedy or safeguard against the outworking of unrighteousness. Indeed, the more civilized men become, the more vicious they are in their idolatry. They become sensually idolatrous, worshiping and serving the creature instead of the Creator (see v. 25). By dishonoring their bodies between themselves, they have prostituted spiritual worship into sensual idolatry.


B.  The Unrighteousness of Sexual Impurity  (vv. 26-27)


The "vile passions" mentioned here have reference to the debasing wantonness of the unnatural use of the woman and the debasing wickedness of the unnatural use of the man. 


C.  The Unrighteousness of Social Insanity  (vv. 28-32)


These verses describe the ultimate in human depravity.  When God gives men and women over to social insanity they are open to any depth of human sin to which their depraved reason will lead them. Paul lists four areas in which they can be affected: God’s Economy, God’s Community, God’s Authority, and God’s Morality.


Conclusion:    To underscore what he has already described Paul concludes by pointing out that such is the degradation of man in his natural state that even though he knows the judgment of God against such sins, he not only continues to perpetrate these evils, but approves of those who practice them (v. 32). What a devastating description of the world of paganism!

As we have looked at the world of paganism we have, in fact, looked at the world of our own hearts.  Apart from the mercy of God, the cross of Christ, and the work of the Holy Spirit, we too are without God, without Christ, and without hope in the world. But what a comfort to know that "though [our] sins are like scarlet, they [can] be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they [can] be as wool" (Isa. 1:18).  All this is possible because "the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin" (1 John 1:7).

Assignment for Home Study

1. Memorize Romans 1:18-32

2. Take ten of the hideous expressions of sin mentioned in verses 29-31 and find their

   counterpart in chapters mentioned in the Old or New Testaments.







Stephen Olford Center for Biblical Preaching
P.O. Box 757800
Memphis, TN 38175-7800
Phone: (901) 757-7977 or (800) 843-2241 Fax: (901) 757-1372

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