Romans 1:24-32


You’ve heard the old saying.  “If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.”  But there comes a time when it doesn’t pay to try, try again.  There comes a time when the better part of wisdom is to give up.  That is what we see God doing in this chapter.  There comes a time when God gives up on mankind — when He stops preventing man’s sinful actions and releases him to go and to “do his own thing.”  Three times in Romans 1:24-32 we read that “God gave them over.”  What does this mean?  It means that instead of the Holy Spirit working to restrain men from engaging in sin and unrighteousness, God allowed men to engage in their sinful activities to the utmost.


This did not happen immediately.  God is a God of patience.  He is longsuffering.  He strives with men and calls them to repentance.   He withholds His righteous judgment for a long season.  But finally there comes a time when this judgment is withheld no more.


Do you remember the cryptic words given by God in the days of Noah?  The human race had turned away from the Lord.  The human race, which had been created to serve and to honor the Lord, had gone its own way.


            Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.” (Genesis 6:3).


God’s Spirit had striven with men since the time of the fall in Eden.  And it would continue to strive with men for a season.  But there would be an end.  That end would come 120 years later with a great flood.


The days of Noah have come and gone.  And once again the Spirit of God strives with man.  But it does not strive forever.  And when men continue to reject the God who has been revealed to them, then He will ultimately respond in judgment.


In verses 18-23 we have seen man turning away from God and refusing to worship Him, thus breaking the first three commandments of the Decalogue.  In the following verses, God gives man over to break the rest of the commandments (most of them are mentioned in these verses.


Romans 1:18-23

Romans 1:24-32

Man breaks first three commandments

Man breaks the rest of the commandments.

 Other gods

 Dishonor of God’s name


 Disobedient to parents


 Immoral adulterers


 Full of envy


Oscar Wilde once said, “When the gods wished to punish us they answer our prayers.”  That is what happens in this passage.  God answers the prayer of the unbeliever who desires God to leave him alone and allow him to go his own way.  That way is a downward spiral.


I have in my library a book written in the late 1960's by J. Bronowski entitled “The Ascent of Man.”  Perhaps we should give this chapter a different title: “The Descent of Man.”


The Jewish rabbis had a saying, “The reward of a good deed is a good deed, and the reward of an evil deed is an evil deed.”  Sin is the punishment for sin.   Sin begets sin which begets more sin.





            Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them.

            For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. (Romans 1:24-25).


The first area where God is said to have given man over is in the area of the lusts of their hears to impurity so that their bodies would be dishonored among them.


There are many kinds of impurity.  But the kind Paul seems to focus upon is a sexual impurity - one that results in the dishonoring of people’s bodies.


Sex in itself is not bad.  Indeed, it was designed by God.  But it was designed by God to be shared between a husband and a wife.  Sexual relations outside the marriage covenant are forbidden by God.


Why are there so many marriages these days which end in divorce?  Why has America become known as the land of sexual immorality?  It is because we as a nation have rejected God.  And God has given men over to their lusts.  He has allowed that their lusts become more lustful.


Verse 25 states the reason that God has done this.  He has allowed men to descend into sexual impurity because they first descended into religious impurity.


God gave men over into sexual unfaithfulness...


Men entered into spiritual unfaithfulness


The Old Testament regularly pictured the unfaithfulness and unbelief in God in terms of spiritual adultery.  In Ezekiel 16 presents such a picture of unfaithful Israel.  The Lord took these people and “spread His skirt” over them, entering into a covenant marriage with the nation (16:8).  However, Israel did not remain faithful to the covenant.  Instead, she entered into a sort of spiritual prostitution.


            “But you trusted in your beauty and played the harlot because of your fame, and you poured out your harlotries on every passer-by who might be willing.” (Ezekiel 16:15).


Ezekiel becomes graphic in his portrayal, saying of the nation, “You spread your legs to every passer-by to multiply your harlotry” (16:25).


Sound shocking?  It is supposed to.  And that is the way God views idolatry and unbelief.  It is nothing less than spiritual prostitution of the worst sort.  Impure.  Dirty.  And until you realize how dirty sin is, then you will never truly appreciate the awesome grace of God.


These two verses in Romans teach us that unfaithfulness toward God and sexual unfaithfulness are related.  While it is true that when man turns away from God he is committing spiritual adultery, it is also true that when God releases man to his sinful rebellion, he turns to an immorality of a more physical and sexual nature.  That which started out as only spiritual soon is manifested in the physical and sexual realm.


Verse 25 contains a chiasm - a parallel which contrasts the lie of unbelievers with the truth that ought to have been followed.


Exchanged the truth of GOD


More than the CREATOR







for a LIE

Worshiped and served the CREATURE






            For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, 27 and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. (Romans 1:26-27).


A second consequence of idolatry is homosexuality - the abandoning not only of a proper marriage relationship, but an abandoning even of the very natural function of genders.


Paul lived in a day when homosexuality was “coming out of the closet.”  The Roman historian Sutonius relates in graphic detail the unnatural sexual practices of those emperors who followed Augustus.  Paul’s pronouncement here is a judgment against both Roman society and even the Roman emperors of the day.  This passage teaches us several things about homosexuality.


1.         Homosexuality is contrary to the creative design.


This passage states that it is contrary to the natural order of things.  Sexually speaking, there is a natural function of the male and there is a natural function of the female.  God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.  His design was for a man and a woman to be together.


2.         Engaging in Homosexual practices is a sin.


a.         The first time it is mentioned is in Genesis 19 where the Lord destroys the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah for their indulgence in this sin.


b.         Homosexual acts are condemned as an abomination in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13.  The penalty for such an activity was death.


c.         It is included in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 as one of the sins the practitioners of which shall not inherit the kingdom of God.


It is not a sickness — God never condemned people for being sick.  Neither is it an innate sexual orientation into which people are born.  It is true that some have this as an area of weakness, such as another might have a weakness for alcohol or for drugs; the way one might be an impulsive liar or a kleptomaniac.  But these do not excuse the sin.  The issue is NOT sexual orientation.  The issue is what one does with that sexuality.


3.         Homosexuality is a judgment from God against sin.


That is taught here in this passage.  When men turned away from God and refused to worship Him, God gave them over into the sins of their flesh.  One of those sins into which God gave them was homosexuality.


4.         Since homosexuality is a sin, it can be forgiven by God and overcome.


Paul does not list homosexuality as the worst of all possible sins.  I do not wish to downplay the seriousness of this sin, but I DO wish to point out that ALL unrighteousness is sin and that God is able to forgive all sin.





            And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; 32 and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them. (Romans 1:28-32).


Verse 28 contains a play on words.  Men did not “see fit” to acknowledge God, so God gave them over to an “unfit” mind.  Both the verb and its corresponding adjective have the idea of putting someone to the test for the purpose of approving.  Men did not approve of God and God responded by giving them over to a disapproved way of thinking.  Men rejected God and God gave them a rejected thinking.


Paul now catalogues a long list of sins dealing mostly with sins against one’s fellow man.  They can be seen in three groups:



Acts of Sin

Unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice


People of Sin

What They Are

Gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents



What They Lack

Without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful


Conspiracy of Sin

 They not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them


Whereas the previous sins mentioned have been sins against God and against one’s own body, these sins are directed against one’s fellow man.  There is a principle here.  How you relate to God has a direct effect upon how you relate to your brother or your sister or your wife or your husband or your parents or your children.


What Paul describes is nothing less than a breakdown of society.  We are seeing such a breakdown in our society today.  The portrait which Paul paints is our own.  It is increasingly a society without God.


This downward spiral can be seen in both individuals as well as in nations.  America has seen such a downward spiral as the naming of God has been forbidden from our public schools.  As our nation has determined not to know God, each one of these sinful activities has mushroomed upon our society.  To that degree, the Lord has “given over” this nation to its lusts, its passions and its depravity.

We are not getting better and better.  The older we get, the more we remain the same.  There is a personal principle here.


As you get older, you become what you are, only more so.  If you are righteous, you become more righteous.  If you are unrighteous, you become more unrighteous.


When you die, the same principle applies.  Maybe that makes you uncomfortable.  I'm glad.


Salvation is a change of direction.  It takes one who was becoming more and more unrighteous, and it changes the direction of his life so that he becomes more and more righteous.


Verse 32 points out that unregenerate man is not content to damn himself.  He is also energetically involved in trying to get others to join him in perdition.  He gives “hearty approval” to those who live lives of sin.


These words of Paul can be stated in the positive to depict the Christian.  Notice by contrast the portrait that is painted.


            Therefore, God gave them over in their hearts to self‑control and purity, that their bodies might be honored among them. For they kept and cherished the truth of God and worshiped and served the Creator, who is blessed forever, rather than the creature.


            For this reason God gave them over to pure and wholesome lives, lived with carefree ease even in the most intimate relations so that all received in their own persons the due reward of their fidelity.


            And just as they saw fit to acknowledge God in all things, God gave them over to a sound mind, to do those things which are proper, being filled with all righteousness, goodness, generosity, kindness; full of selflessness, life, healing, openness, kindliness; they are gentle in speech, always building others up, lovers of God, respectful, humble, self‑effacing, inventors of good, obedient to parents, understanding, trustworthy, loving, merciful; and as they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are possessors of life, they do the same, and give hearty approval to all who do likewise.


Paul presents the portrait of a man without God.  But when God comes into a life, He paints quite a different portrait.  One way leads to death, and the other leads to life.  One way leads to the wrath and judgment of God, and the other leads to the approval and acceptance of God.  The question is: which do you prefer?  Apart from the saving power of the gospel, man descends lower and lower on the ladder of evil.  Coming to Jesus gets you off the ladder.


This is the power of the gospel of which Paul was so proud.  Its power is seen in its ability to take a like which has been given over into a downward spiral into the depths of sin and raise it up to the realms of absolute holiness and righteousness.


It is not a matter of how strong YOU can be.  It is a matter of the power of God and what He has accomplished through His Son and the death that He died.


The bad news is very bad.  And as we study the next two chapters of Romans, it will get still worse.  And only then will we be able to fully appreciate the incredible saving power of the Gospel of Jesus.


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