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DEVOTIONS FROM ROMANS

ROMANS -- ABUNDANT LIFE IN CHRIST (4)

Sin and its Retrogression and Exposé

Romans 1:24-32 (NKJV)

Dr. Gordon E. Johnson
Rio Grande Bible institute

Introduction 

Paul introduces God's redemptive plan by immediately facing man's root problem – sin as God sees it, not as man conceives it.  Man's rebellion calls for the wrath of God in no uncertain terms. God must judge "all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness" (Rom. 1:18). Having stated that basic premise, Paul outlines the voice of creation and conscience that God gifted men with. In spite of that offer, man took six steps downward (Rom. 1:21-23). The initial sin was to not glorify God as God but rather self: that is, pride became the first sin, the prototype of Lucifer's.  All sins then devolve from that basic selfishness, independence of God and egotism.

Paul Charts the Course of Man's Debasement in Three Cycles   Romans 1:24-28.

What follows in Romans 1:24-28 is the clearest indictment by God the Just Judge of man's sin. It is not a shortcoming, not a character flaw, not a mere misjudgment; sin is open, blatant rebellion that will destroy man and call forth God's just wrath.  That original prohibition: "but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die (dying you will die)" (Gen. 2:17) will resonate for all time until eternity. Hell became a necessity from that moment on. There could be no turning back, no human remedial action taken.  But God himself would find a way to ultimately triumph over man's sin and restore the believer to a yet higher state.  That will become the stuff of redemption that Paul will introduce once sin is seen as it is in God's sight.

Cycle Number One  - Romans 1:24, 25

To survey these three cycles will begin to plumb the depths of sin. Today in our culture sin no longer is sin; it is a mistake, a mere flaw, a non entity, if even considered at all. It is not fashionable to speak of sin, much less of God as a righteous judge. But truth remains truth and error remains error. Our philosophizing will not change God's reality.  Absolutes remain backed by God's moral government.  We can do no better than quote his inspired Word: "Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts. To dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the creator, who is blessed forever. Amen." (Rom. 1:24.25).

God highlights sexual uncleanness in almost all  the biblical catalogues of sin: any type of immorality and perversion. (Mark 7:21-23; Gal. 5:19-21; Eph. 2:1-3; Titus 3:3, 4). Such sins are the breeding ground of unclean spirits, demonic activity. If there is any sin that God must judge, it is the sin of evil desire, the sin closest to each of us. Whether it be the "refined" sin of covetousness (Paul's sin as a believer - Rom. 7:7) or the most gross, there can be no forgiveness without repentance and contrition. "Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge. Let your conduct be without covetousness . . . ." (Heb.13: 4, 5). In this first cycle God mentions the dishonoring of our bodies. He will develop this in more fully in the next cycle.

Cycle Number Two  - Romans 1:26, 27

What was referred to in the first cycle is now expanded, an explicit condemnation of homosexuality and lesbianism. This does not sit well with what is "politically correct," but it is God's Word. "For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their  women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which is due."  This condemnation is so explicit that no comment is needed.

Cycle Number Three  - Romans  1:28

The third cycle repeats for the third time that God himself judicially ratified the free choice of man who would go his own way. "And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting" (1:28). Man made his free choice of independence; God responds by confirming it, letting sin bring its own punishment of sin. How solemn to thank that God three times "gave them up" to the consequences of their own sins. How can God be blamed for man's choice!

God's Devastating Exposé  - Romans 1: 29-32

Read with shame the twenty two sins mentioned --a list by no means complete.  Again the grouping of the list of sins is so significant; as usual it begins with sexual impurities, acts of violence, attitudes, relationships God ward and man ward.  But the "tiro de gracia" (the final shot) is: "Who, knowing the righteous judgment of God that those who practice such things are worthy of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them" (1:32).  There can be no greater sin than such blatant defiance of God.

Such sweeping statements of man's depravity can only underscore the hopelessness of man's ever saving himself. But more condemnation is yet to come in Romans 2:1-3:20.  Paul is making his case for nothing less than the sovereign intervention of God in Christ. Remember clearly that Paul is laying the groundwork for his destroying man's insatiable pride and self righteousness.  He begins with the wrath of God being revealed --a timeless exhibition still in place today. The picture will become darker before it gets brighter.  While Paul says little about repentance in Romans, his exposé of sin is such that to say more is needless. Judgment of sin must precede the exhibition of God's mercy and grace. But a brighter day is to dawn.

Some Powerful Deductions on Sin's Retrogression  - Romans 1:23-32

1.       Sin like a cancer metastazies or grows until its deadly influence kills.

2.       Man's condition is absolutely hopeless; such rebellion cannot produce any good that God can recognize. To break one law is to break them all Sant. 2:10.

3.       God reveals his wrath against all moral lapses regardless of how the world may see them or justify them.  For Christian workers this is a solemn warning.  Culture provides no excuse.

4.       Sin springs from the thought life and reproduces itself in acts and attitudes.

5.       The prevalent sin of pornography can in no way be justified before God.

6.       God the judge is at liberty to ratify sinful choices once taken.

7.       Paul's condemnation of immorality was as prevalent in his day as in ours.

Dr. E. Gordon Johnson

August 8, 2007