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Romans 1:24-32 -- Understanding Unbelief - Part 2: Refusing To Worship God

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Today we will look at one of the most serious and theologically packed sections of the Bible.  Yet it contains one of the most controversial and emotionally charged issues of our day and that is of homosexuality.  Now this passage deals with more that the topic of homosexuality but it also contains the most clear explanations of this sin.  Even more than the issue of abortion, it will confront the church throughout this generation.  We are bombarded with the so called “need” to accept this as an alternative lifestyle  Christians are seen as bigots and unloving idiots who want to be unfair to the alternative views of marriage.  In fact, our own state is dealing with this during the election with proposition 8.  I watched a commercial the other day that showed a bride headed down the aisle during her wedding and was then held back, not being allowed to marry.  Then the connection of accepting the marriage of homosexuals came into view.  Hillary Duff is leading the charge of stamping out the phrase “that’s so gay.”  She says, “don’t use that when you mean something is bad or stupid.”  Chicago is presenting a “gay” friendly school to prevent drop outs and promote “gay and lesbian historical figures so that students can have heroes.”


Yet today’s message is not just on this topic alone.  We will be looking at 1:24-32 which shows that refusing to worship God brings serious consequences.  Last time we looked at 1:18-23 which helped us understand why the wrath of God is being revealed. Man has rejected the revelation of God and has rejected giving glory and thanks to God.  Man suppresses the truth even though it is evident and clear to him.  Man refuses to Worship God, giving Him the glory that is due Him and instead proudly worships himself or creatures.  This rejection leads to serious consequences which Paul will begin to unfold in this next section.


However, a word of caution is needed as we begin and we will be reminded of this at the end.  Paul is not showing that homosexuality is the worst sin among sins in this section.  In fact, he shows that all sin, even homosexuality is a result of rejecting God, refusing to worship Him.  Let us not sit here and think of those degenerate people who are morally perverse until we realize that such were some of us, but we were washed, sanctified and justified because of Christ.  Paul will develop two of thoughts here.  Man exchanges and God gives over.  Man exchanges God for a lie, God gives man over to moral perversion.  Man exchanges God for a lie, he does not acknowledge God, God gives man over to mental perversion, a depraved mind that commits sin that is a serious as homosexuality.  What most fail to see is that Paul puts on the same level homosexuality with disobedience to parents, with being unloving and unmerciful.  God is serious about sin because at its root is man replacing God with something else.  Lets turn to Romans 1.

1.  Refusing to Worship God leads to Moral Perversion

  • Paul shows that without a doubt, man is NOT basically good but evil.  Man gets worse and worse not better when left off to himself.
  • When people abandon God, God abandon’s them to their sin.
  • That is going to be the consistent theme here.  People exchanges – God gives over.  When we look at our section here we see in verse 24 (Romans 1:24) “Therefore” which looks back at the previous section.
  • There is a direct connection between what we looked at last time in the rejection of God and today which is the consequences of rejecting God.
  • When man rejects God gives over, when man rejects, God punishes by letting them continue in their sin.

Handed Over

  • Romans 1:22-23 show that when man, who had general knowledge about God suppressed that knowledge, that man then thought himself wise but was really a fool, or “moronic”.  Professing to be wise, they exchanged the Glory of God for idols in the image of the created.
  • Man rejects God and begins to proudly worship himself.  In this pride, he shows his foolishness because He exchanges or substitutes worshipping our glorious God to worship himself or animals. 
  • The word in verse 23 (Romans 1:23) is ἤλλαξαν which means to substitute one thing for another.  This is used twice in Romans 1:25-26.  Man substitutes worshipping God for worshipping himself or idols.  The consequence of this is that God gives them over to Moral Perversion.
  • People refuse to worship God, God gives them over.
  • This word for handed over - παραδίδωμι – Is active and in all 3 times it is used (Romans 1:24, 26, 28) has God as the subject.  God is actively handing them over to their lusts.
  • This doesn’t mean that God causing them to sin.  God hands over in a permissive sense, removing His restraint much like what Paul writes in 2 Thessalonians 2:6-7 where God removes the Holy Spirit who restrains sin.
  • When people reject God, He removes the restraints that keep them from becoming as evil as they could possibly be, much like the times of Noah.
  • Yet it is active in the sense of Judgment – This is God’s judgment upon them.  In Romans 1:18, God’s wrath is being revealed – Present tense – and that wrath and judgment is seen in God allowing people to continue in their sin. 
  • God shuts people up in the consequences of their sin so that they will see their folly and look to Him for mercy.
  • He punishes in order to heal and restore – Isaiah 19:22
  • All wrath is not future, just as we saw that God’s wrath is currently being revealed like in Noah’s day, with Sodom and Gomorrah and with the judgment on the nation of Israel.
  • Leviticus 26:25 predicts that God will punish – deliver – Hand over – same word used in the LXX as here in Romans – God will hand over Israel to their enemies because of their sin and idolatry.
  • Man is not basically good, but in a downward spiral, so in God’s wrath and judgment, He hands them over to the lusts that is already in their hearts.

Impure Hearts that dishonors the body

  • God has handed over due to rejecting Him, but Paul also shows that when He handed over, Lust was already in the hearts.
  • Though the issue here will be sexual sins, moral perversions, the issue of sin is a heart issue.
  • Rejecting God starts in the heart, so God handed them over to the lusts that were already in their hearts.
  • Heart in scripture is not describing emotions but the whole thinking process – the basic nature of a person
  • Those who are handed over already are immersed in sin.  What we have is Paul showing God’s active role in judgment and Man’s responsibility due to his own sin in his heart.
  • Though God has handed them over, Paul shows in Ephesians 4:19 that Man also has a role in his condition where Paul states that “they have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness”
  • It is like a judge who gives over a prisoner to be punished for his crime he has earned, God hands over the sinner to the terrible cycle of sin.
  • The whole tenor of this section is that of Man’s rejection of God resulting in being handed over to sexual perversion.
  • They are handed over in the lusts of their hearts for impurity - ἀκαθαρσία – refers to sexual impurity and is often translated as uncleanness.
  • The irony here is that instead of giving “honor” to God, God hands them over to their sexual perversion so that their bodies would be “dishonored.”
  • The body that indulges in sexual impurity found in the heart is dishonored, degraded and disgraced.
  • Verse 25 (Romans 1:25) again restate what 23-24 have stated, that they have exchanged, substituted the truth of God for a lie in refusing to worship Him and worshipping themselves and idols.
  • The root of all of this is bound up in refusing to worship the Creator and worshipping what has been created.
  • So not only have they suppressed the truth of God (Romans 1:18) but they have exchanged it.
  • Have you ever noticed that while Paul was talking about such things, he breaks out in a little doxology at the end of verse 25?  They were suppose to praise the Creator but exchanged worshipping God for worshipping lies and Paul then breaks out in worship himself, praising and blessing the Creator.
  • Even in describing the wrath and punishment of God, the creator, he praises Him.
  • Paul, in verse 26 (Romans 1:26) picks up the theme of sexual and moral perversion as the consequence of refusing to worship God.
  • To illustrate the lust of the hearts, the degrading passions, Paul uses the most extreme example of sexual perversion and that is homosexuality.
  • All sexual sin is a perversion of God’s intended design for sex fulfilled in a marriage.  The term in verse 24 of impurity covers all types of sexual sins, but Paul focuses on the grosses perversion of sexual sin and that is same sex relationships.
  • Homosexual sins are against the very order and nature of creation.
  • Although very similar to the previous verses, Paul continues to get more graphic and emphasize the consequences of sin.
  • Previously, He states that God gave them over to the lusts of their hearts in impurity or lusts that produce all kinds of sexual sins.
  • Here he is more specific and more emphatic.  God, still because of refusing to worship Him, gives people over to “degrading passions”
  • John Macarthur states, “When man forsakes the Author of nature, he inevitably forsakes the order of nature[1] “
  • Much has been made about the order in which Paul writes on homosexuality, stating that women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural and then states that men did similar.  Some state that this is because that the last to embrace such sins are women.
  • I don’t think Paul is stating that at all and one has to read into the passage for that.  It might be true, but is that what Paul is saying here?
  • He uses terms for man and woman that are unique here, not the typical Greek words for them.  These terms express the idea of gender.  These terms emphasize the distinctiveness of male and female.  Paul is showing that refusing to worship God results in serious consequences for both men and women.
  • His point I believe is that none are immune from God’s handing over when.
  • When you reject God and worship other things due to the sin in your hearts, God allows you to continue down that destructive path of sin whether you are a man or a women.
  • God’s design was for a man and woman, inside the institute of marriage to engage in sexual activity.  This is the natural order.
  • To argue that the prohibitions on homosexuality are cultural is contrary to what we see here.  Homosexuality is against God’s created order, of nature itself.
  • Other passages that discuss the sinfulness of homosexual activity are: Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; and 1 Timothy 1:10.
  • At the end of verse 27 (Romans 1:27) Paul shows that this sin can carry immediate consequences in that they receive in them their due penalty. 
  • There are a few ideas on what this means, receiving in them their due penalty of their sins.  Some take it to mean that being handed over to sexual perversion is the penalty.  Others take it to mean eternal punishment that awaits.  Still others see issues like AIDS and STD’s as punishment.  Yet this is not only an issue with homosexuality who gets the physical consequences of sin.
  • While all are true, the main point Paul is making is that the penalty is deserved, it is due them.  He doesn’t discuss what kind of penalty but context shows that it is most likely the judgment of God at being handed over.
  • God is just in judging.


2.  Refusing to Worship God leads to Mental Perversion


  • Paul discusses that sin has serious consequences.
  • Rejecting God and refusing to worship God is the root sin that deserves punishment.
  • In that punishment, God hands over sinner to continue to sin in a downward spiral.
  • The section we looked at dealt with sexual or moral perversion.
  • God is rejected so He hands those who reject over to their own lustful hearts to dishonor their bodies.
  • Yet Paul will do something important here.  He not only deals with sins that are committed against oneself and against the body but he will also deal with sin that first is from a depraved and sinful mind that flows out into other sins.
  • The connection between rejection God and human sin is forged again with a list of sins that start with a depraved mind.
  • This list is a general and wide ranging list of sin ranging from wickedness to being disobedient to parents.
  • Yet look at verse 28 (Romans 1:28).  This is the third time Paul says that God hands over or gives over.
  • Again, the root of the issue is refusing to worship God – rejecting God.  Paul states, “they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer” and points back to verse 21 (Romans 1:21) where they had the knowledge of God but did not honor God or give Him thanks.
  • There is a play on words here.  They did not ἐδοκίμασαν (see fit) so God gave them over to a  ἀδόκιμον (unfit) mind.  They proudly rejected God and did not acknowledge Him, give Him glory and honor – So God gave them an unfit or depraved mind.
  • The word for “depraved” or “unfit” means something that failed the test.  The rejecting mind becomes the rejected mind.
  • It does not talk of intelligence but of morality
  • The mind is not straight but twisted.  They thought they knew better yet God judges them in terms of their mind.
  • People who have proudly refused to worship God are given minds that are disqualified from being able to understand and acknowledge the will of God.
  • Therefore they do the things that are not proper.
  • Listen to this. Here, the consequence of refusing to worship God is that God gives people over to a mind that doesn’t pass the test, that is rejected and disqualified from knowing and doing what God has required.
  • Now turn to Romans 12:1-2.  Notice the connection of worship, of a transformed mind and of being able to “test” and approve the will of God, what God desires and commands us to do.
  • The point is this, in our unredeemed state, we have a rejected mind, one that cannot be and do what God has called us to be and do.  It is a consequence of our rejecting God, of not worshipping Him.
  • Yet through Christ, in our salvation, we can now have transformed minds, minds that can test and approve, minds that can do what God has called us to be and do.
  • The result is that a depraved, unfit mind produces sin of all kinds.  All kinds of unrighteousness, wickedness, greed and evil.  These terms are general in Romans 1:29.
  • This mind is full of all kinds of evil, envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice.
  • Yet Paul also includes sins that would be “minor sins” to some, like gossip, slander, hating God.
  • He includes sins like “insolent” which means to insult.  Arrogance or pride.  Boastful people, bragging about themselves.
  • He includes being disobedient to parents, lacking understanding and being unloving and unmerciful.
  • He also includes those who know good yet do evil and give approval for others to participate in it.
  • This leads back to a mind that is unfit, “disqualified”, “rejected” and “depraved” and this is a result of refusing to worship God.
  • What we see here is that Paul shows that refusing to worship God has serious consequences both in the body and in the mind that result in grievous sins.



—  SO what is our application – Let us not be so arrogant to think we would not be like the people that Paul has just written about, because SUCH WERE SOME OF US!

—  We should not put sins on rank of grossness or what is acceptable and not acceptable.  Disobedience to parents is an affront to a holy God as much as homosexuality.  We so often look down on homosexuals, disgusted with them, “homophoic” and unloving and unmerciful to them.  Yet the same sins that are a result of rejecting God and not worshipping Him like being unloving and unmerciful, we commit when thinking of a certain sin.  We need to be compassionate people regarding those who have rejected God.

—   We should also remember that sin is sin, not only is all of it an affront to God, but Christians can and do sin.  We see the later sins like unloving and say well, as I Christian, I struggle with being unloving.  We may even say that we struggle with “lust” but fail to realize that there are people who struggle with homosexuality. 

—  We need to realize that all of our sin is traced back to worship.  If you are struggling with lust it is a result of not worshipping God.  If you are struggling with anger or pride or disobedience or gossip or slander – IT is a issue of the mind that needs to be transformed and a heart that needs to worship God instead of yourself and what you want.

—  We need to praise God, because no matter where we fall on this list, Paul can say to us…and such were some of you, but you have been washed, sanctified and justified in Christ.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11

9 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,  10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.  11 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]MacArthur, John: Romans. Chicago : Moody Press, 1996, c1991, c1994, S. 105

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