A Depraved Mind
There is one very serious defect to my mind in Christ’s moral character, and that is that He believed in hell. I do not myself feel that any person who is really profoundly humane can believe in everlasting punishment. Christ certainly as depicted in the Gospels did believe in everlasting punishment, and one does find repeatedly a vindictive fury against those people who would not listen to His preaching.… You do not, for instance, find that attitude in Socrates. You find him quite bland and urbane toward the people who would not listen to him, and it is, to my mind, far more worthy of a sage to take that line than to take the line of indignation.2
Main Principle: God reveals his wrath because man has rejected God resulting in God's retribution for their rejection of Him and turning to idolatry.
Main Application: Elevating our thinking above God produces passions of idolatry resulting in God's punishment.
I. God revealed His wrath, 18
It is the response of God’s holiness to human wickedness and rebellion that suppresses the knowledge of God and embraces a lie instead, the retribution that must operate in a moral universe [TNTC].
The word here is orge, which signifies a settled and abiding condition. It is controlled. “The wrath of God” is not human wrath, which at its best is only a distorted reflection of God’s wrath because it is always compromised by the presence of sin. “The wrath of God” is perfect, settled, controlled.
The truth that the one true God is to be honored and worshipped is suppressed as people unrighteously refuse to do this [BECNT].
This means that by their unrighteous acts and rebellion against God’s just rule, people actually hinder or suppress the effect the truth would otherwise have had on their religious and moral state [NICNT].
The truth that has been suppressed is that God should be honored, worshipped, and esteemed as God, and the fundamental sin is the refusal to worship God and give him proper sovereignty in one’s life [BECNT].
In the NT, truth is something to be obeyed, not just to give mental assent to, and acting sinfully is to rebel against God’s rule and what he has said should be done [NICNT].
II. God was rejected by man, 19-23
Instead of being thankful for all that God had given him, man refused to thank God or give Him the glory He deserves. Man was willing to use God’s gifts, but he was not willing to worship and praise God for His gifts. The result was an empty mind and a darkened heart. Man the worshiper became man the philosopher, but his empty wisdom only revealed his foolishness.
Having held down God’s truth and refusing to acknowledge God’s glory, man was left without a god; and man is so constituted that he must worship something. If he will not worship the true God, he will worship a false god, even if he has to manufacture it himself! This fact about man accounts for his propensity to idolatry. Man exchanged the glory of the true God for substitute gods that he himself made. He exchanged glory for shame, incorruption for corruption, truth for lies.
When truth is rejected, in time the ability to recognize and to receive truth is impaired (cf. John 3:19–20).
The ultimate irony in humanity’s refusal to glorify the true God is the insanity or stupidity of idolatry described in Isaiah 44:9–20. Man’s refusal to acknowledge and glorify God leads to a downward path: first, worthless thinking; next, moral insensitivity; and then, religious stupidity (seen in idol-worship).
III. God exercised His retribution for man’s rejection of Him, 24-32.
I. The Sensual Dimension (vv. 24–27) - Wrong Worship
II. The Mental Dimension (vv. 28–31) - Wrong Thinking
Cranfield says that such a mind is “so debilitated and corrupted as to be a quite untrustworthy guide in moral decision.”8
“God gave them over” this time to a “depraved mind” (Rom. 1:28, NASB), which means a mind that cannot form right judgments. They now abandoned themselves to sin.
It is a deep-seated blindness and perversity with regard to understanding and acknowledging God’s will or comprehending and practicing biblical ethical principles [NICNT].
Having a mind that is unfit comes as a result of esteeming God as unfit [BECNT].
III. The Ultimate Dimension (v. 32) - Wrong Conclusion
God is seen as taking an active role in this process [BECNT, Gdt, HNTC, Ho, ICC2, Mor, NTC, WBC]. This in not an impersonal working out of moral law, but it involves an active personal decision and response by God [BECNT].
God does even more than remove his restraint, he actively delivers them up to ever increasing wickedness [ICC1, Mu, NICNT]. Their being handed over is not merely a matter of God passively withdrawing his influence, but his taking an active role as the initiator of the process, handing them over to the terrible cycle of ever increasing sin [NICNT].