Recall that we have learned that the wrath of God is revealed in the world, and it is revealed as God “lets go”of a culture, allowing them to run headlong into various suicidal and fruitless practices. In this text, we find a deepening expansion of the point Paul has already made.
“For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them” (Rom. 1:26-32).
Summary of the Text
The wrath of God, considered in this light, is certainly not limited to homosexual practices. But Paul certainly places that particular perversion at the center of his argument. Notice that men do not embrace vile affections, despite everything that God could do. No, it says that God “gave them up unto” these vile affections (v. 26). The reason we have gay pride parades is that God is doing something to us. As a result, Paul argues, even the women gave up the natural use of man (v. 26). And the men did the same, turning in unseemly desire toward one another (v. 27). Just as they did not want to retain God in their knowledge, so God let them not retain Him in their knowledge (v. 28). As a result, they then filled up with all kinds of spiritual sludge (vv. 29-31). Sins are like grapes; they come in bunches. This happened despite the fact that they knew it to be the judgment of God (v. 32). This means their suppression of the knowledge of God did not really work. They did not want to retain the knowledge of God, but they still knew the judgment of God (v. 32). That judgment is that sin warrants death, as they well know, but they insist on becoming cheerleaders for that way of death (v. 32).
God created mankind, male and female, in His image (Gen. 1:27). This means that attempts to rearrange how everything goes are foundational attempts at trying to make a heretical theology stick. By defacing the image, we assault the reality. By rearranging the components, rebellious mankind is trying to recreate God, trying to make Him into something other than what He is. Homosexual actions are therefore a high profile revolt against the Trinity. All sins do the same, but this shows up the problem is stark relief.
Remember that God does not just reveal Himself in Scripture. He reveals Himself in nature, and the natural use of the female for the male, and the natural use of the male for the female, is an important part of that revelation. Homosexual practice is contrary to the design of God, not just because God says so in Scripture(Lev. 20:13), which He of course does, but also because we discover in the natural world that the parts don’t fit. This is not just physiological, although it is that. If you keep all the nuts in one bag and all the bolts in another, you won’t ever build anything. But “the parts” don’t fit anywhere else either. They don’t fit spiritually, mentally, emotionally, or culturally. Homosexual advocates like to represent this point as a cheap laugh line from “traditionalists,” but Paul shows it to be a cogent point, an unanswerable argument.
When Paul says that God gave them up to “vile affections,” he does not just mean that they are vile from “our perspective, though others might differ.” Remember that this is at the very center of God’s judgment. When men desired to think as though God were not there, God granted their wish in judgment, and gave them over to a reprobate mind (v. 28). This is how we know that wrath is occurring—God gives them up, God gives them over (vv. 26, 28). Remember that Paul is echoing the judgment themes found in Ps. 106, and here is another one. God granted their request, but He sent leanness to their souls (Ps. 106:15). God judges in wrath by saying yes.
A Grim List Indeed
The sins that follow are not just sins that the culture in question dabbles in. They don’t just happen from time to time. When God’s wrath is being poured out, what happens? The pouring corresponds to a filling. “Being filled with all unrighteousness . . .” (v. 29). This particular cultural jug is filled with all unrigheousness (v. 19), sexual uncleanness (v. 29), wickedness of various kinds (v. 29), covetousness and wanting (v. 29), malice and spite (v. 29), green envy (v. 29), murder of course (v. 29), disputes and tangles (v. 29), lies and more lies (v. 29), a surly malignity (v. 29), whispering campaigns (v. 29), backstabbing (v. 30), God-hating (v. 30). contempt for others (v. 30), overweening arrogance (v. 30), boasting and bragging (v. 30), evil inventors (v. 30), disobedient to parents (v. 30), stupidity and stupor (v. 31), oath-breaking (v. 31), without natural affection (v. 31), hard-hearted (v. 31), and unmerciful (v. 31). And please note the ironic twist, in the modern parlance, to oppose the root that produces all this kind of corrupt fruit is called “hate.” Yeah, right, whatever.
Cheerleaders of Death
Those who know God, suppress the knowledge of God in unrighteousness, but nevertheless retain their awareness of the judgment of God (in which they live), persist in their rebellion. They know that sin is worthy of death, but nevertheless do them, and take pleasure when others follow the way of death along with them. Truly the words that Wisdom speaks in Proverbs are manifestly true in this instance. All who hate wisdom love death (Prov. 8:36).
And this is how we know that America is under judgment. Note again, we do not know in the abstract that America, like all nations, is headed for judgment if . . . We are dealing with a very concrete situation, not an abstract one. Suppose there was a nation awash in consumer goods, a nation that gained the world, but which lost its own soul (Matt. 16:26). Suppose that nation cut off its future by slaughtering over 40 million of her own citizens. Suppose further that this was urged as a noble and constitutional thing to do. Suppose that this nation began to sanctify sodomite marriages, and laughed at every form of righteousness. Suppose that there were millions of Christians in this country who longed for America to deliver herself by returning to her noble, true self, instead of longing for Christ to save her from her corrupted, wicked self.