Exposition of Romans: 1:24–25 — Deal with God, not the lie!

Because the created order pours out evidence of God’s divinity and power, a choice to suppress that truth has grave consequences. First, thinking becomes distorted (1:21), and then lust drives those affected toward physical actions that deepen the problem (1:24).

The process described above underscores the importance of choosing God as the focus of your life!

(ESV) Romans 1:24–25  Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

There is a sad reciprocity in these verses. Because they had exchanged God for powerless idols, while knowing he was God, the Lord handed them over to impure actions driven by their own lusts (1:24). The Greek verb paradid?mi (1:24), meaning “to convey something in which one has a relatively strong personal interest, hand over,”[1] is the very same one used repeatedly in the Gospels for those who handed over Jesus to be tried and crucified (John 18:30, 19:11). So, the verb frequently has strong overtones of physical custody or limitation.

One commentator has likened the handing over to God’s released hold on a boat that is being pulled downstream by a current, whose pull represents “the lusts of their hearts.” Douglas Moo goes even further: “The meaning of ‘hand over’ demands that we give God a more active role as the initiator of the process. God does not simply let the boat go — he gives it a push downstream.”[2] ESV says God gave them over “to impurity” (1:24), and this word means “immorality, vileness especially of sexual sins.”[3]

In relation to God handing them over, John Chrysostom (c. 347–407 AD) said:

After all, he set before them, as a form of teaching, the world. He gave them reason and an understanding capable of perceiving what they needed to understand. Yet the people of that time did not use any of those things in order to obtain salvation, but rather they perverted what they had received into the opposite. What could God have done about this? Could he have forced them to do what was right? Yes, but that would not have made them virtuous.[4]

The exact nature of “dishonoring of their bodies” (1:24) will become more clear in Romans 1:26–27, so we will reserve detailed discussion until that time. For now, consider that this is not merely a problem in the spiritual sphere, though that would be serious enough, but it affects the bodies of those involved. Spiritual decisions have a physical effect!

In 1:25, the ESV is alone in translating with “because.” Moo says, “Since v. 23 has already expressed the reason for this handing over, it is preferable to see v. 25 as initiating a new sentence.”[5] What does the new sentence say? It holds that humanity has made a fatally bad bargain by trading the truth of God for a lie. Not surprisingly, Jesus says the devil is the father of lies (John 8:44).

Paul is not thinking about lies in general, but the specific lie described by the second half of 1:25. People who suppress the truth reject the worship of God “the Creator” and replace it with worship of some part of the creation (“mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles” 1:23). Above all lesser lies is the fundamental lie that denies both God’s right to rule and his power.

Paul will in time explain how Jesus Christ is the one to whom our faith must be given. But before that comes the fundamental issue: will you seek God or fall for the lie? Osborne points out: “In the West, where there are few physical idols, another type of idolatry predominates (even more dangerous because it is not identified as such): the idolatry of self that is manifested in possessions, status in society and sex.”[6]

Accept God and reject the lie!

The same bargain the world offers to us in the twenty-first century was offered to Jesus in the first century. Before his ministry to Israel, Jesus was tempted by the devil:

Then  the devil led him up to a high place and showed him in a flash all the kingdoms of the world. 6 And he said to him, “To you I will grant this whole realm — and the glory that goes along with it, for it has been relinquished to me, and I can give it to anyone I wish. 7 So then, if you will worship me, all this will be yours.” 8 Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘You are to worship the Lord your God and serve only him.’” (Luke 4:5–8, NET).

 1. What events indicate that pressure is rising against the expression of Christian faith in public settings? How do these developments push people toward making choices with their time, money and commitment that do not consider God?

2. What forms has idolatry taken in your extended family and what terminology might you use to try to reach the affected people for Christ? How might you use the creation itself to convince family members of God’s divinity and power?

Many mistakes in life can be easily corrected, but fundamentally rejecting God is not one of them. Because that choice has spiritual, intellectual and physical consequences, it takes nothing less than the power of God to overcome it. Only through the gospel of Jesus Christ is such power available.

Copyright © 2012 Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

 

[1] BDAG-3, paradid?mi , hand over, q.v.

[2] Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1996) 111.

[3] BDAG-3, akatharsia, vileness, q.v.

[4] Gerald Bray, ed., Romans, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998) 44.

[5] Moo, Romans, 112.

[6] Grant R. Osborne, Romans, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004) 50.