God’s Wrath Against Mankind, Rom. 1:18-31
Make no mistake about it. The lifestyles described in this passage still incur the wrath of God. But that wrath may not be seen until judgment day (2 Cor. 5:1 0-11; 1 Tim. 5:24). Many things are not within the right or purview of man to carry out judgment. Crime is defined and punished under civil law. But sin is in the court of God. We will do well to leave it there. That being said, it is the duty of those who teach and preach to paint a clear picture of sin and its consequences. Being opposed to sin and wanting to turn others from it is not being judgmental and hateful. But trying to punish sinners will only bring the wrath of God on ourselves. Standing for righteousness and being self-righteous are two different things entirely. We are to love all souls and reach out to them with the attitude of Christ, “speaking the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15). We must exercise caution, because it is all too easy to rage against a certain sin while excusing sins of our own. Hypocrisy must be avoided!
In chapters 1 and 2, Paul paints the background of need for the gospel of Christ. Both Gentiles and Jews needed it desperately. The Gentiles had turned their backs on God, and he let them go. The Jews had failed to live up to the Law God had given them.
Gentile abandonment of God’s revelation is discussed in chapter 1:18-31. Even in nature, the power and majesty of God is revealed in a universal language (Psa. 19:1-4). The plan of God cannot be known through nature, but the need to obey the mighty Creator is seen. In early times God had made himself known, but in their pride the Gentiles turned their back on the revelation they had. Paul states three times in the text that God gave them over to do as they pleased, giving them freedom to pursue sin to their own destruction (1:24, 26, 28). Instead of honoring God, they worshiped themselves and their pleasure. The idea of God was relegated to idols or images, which were “manageable” and made no moral demands of them. The natural consequence of such a tragic abandonment is the moral decay described in the chapter. They thought themselves to be so wise, but they were fools, denying God (Psa. 14:1). Heathen religion and heathen morality lead to self-destruction in this world and to eternal punishment in the next. The world has been left without excuse because God has revealed himself, especially in the gospel age (Acts 17:27).
The Gentiles pursued sexual sin, defying God’s standard of righteousness and perverting the purpose and nature of the human body. Paul says God “gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done” (1:28). This refers not to just one sin, but many. Paul begins his list of depraved ways by plainly speaking out against homosexual practices, which the Old Testament had also clearly condemned (Lev. Ch. 18). Other forms of sexual immorality such as pre-marital sex and extra-marital sex are equally unacceptable. The laundry list continues in verses 29-31, but these are only representative. Numerous “sin lists” are seen in Paul’s writings, describing the many ways men disobey God. Note carefully that Paul says they know better but choose not to do better. And not only are the doers condemned for such, but also the approving spectators. Be careful what you approve. Love the sinner, hate the sin.
My comments are not an inspired commentary, but rather a few words to draw attention to the background, context, and dynamic situation of the book of Acts. May God bless your reading of His Word. T.C.