Study of Romans as given by Dr. James Montgomery Boice: Romans 1:32
32Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve those who practice them.
Why can’t we sin just a little bit? We don’t have to commit the big sins, maybe a few little sins here and there. God forbids all sin, of course, but surely all sins are not equally terrible. It wouldn’t be so bad to dip into sin every now and then, you know, to satisfy the appetite for it. We should know the answer to this simple question from having studied the first chapter of Romans. The problem with sinning just a little bit is that each bit is followed by another bit, which is followed by a little bit more. It is the accumulation of these little bits that lead us to having God banished from life’s horizon entirely. We come to a point where we have ruined everything.
The Downhill Path
- The way to the downhill path is repeated three times in the phrase “God gave them over”, which we previously studied.
- It is because we reject God and suppress the knowledge of Him is why God gives us over to our own devices.
- When God gives us over we fill our lives with God-like substitutes.
- God, does not abandon us completely, because this is still His created world, but He abandons us by removing His restraints.
- God allows us to go our own way, abandoning us judicially to sin’s consequences. This is most definitely a downhill path.
- If God is the source of all good, then to abandon God is to abandon good and launch oneself on a path leading in progressive measure to all that is evil.
- Paul describes a downhill slide that looks like this:
- God gave them over to sexual impurity (v. 24)
- This is a reference to fornication(premarital sex) and adultery.
- There are two outcomes of this:
- These sins result in the degrading of our bodies.
- These sins result in exchanging what is good and true for what is bad and a deception.
- God game them over to shameful lusts (v. 26)
- This refers mainly to homosexuality and lesbianism.
- It’s a step downward from just mere sexual experimentation.
- Instead of just being sinful, these are perversions of “unnatural”. These sins are against nature. Bodies were not meant to function this way.
- These sins are not only against God’s revelation in the O.T. and N.T., but also against the very order of creation.
- God gave them over to a depraved mind (v. 28)
- When we ran into this verse it was thought that this should be first and not the third step in the downhill path.
- We had to understand what Paul was talking about when he introduced this term “depraved mind” to us.
- Paul is speaking about a kind of thought perversion that regards what is good as being evil, and what is evil as being good.
- This is the mind of Satan, and this is why it comes third. The previous two steps lead us to the conform to the mind of Satan.
- God gave them over to sexual impurity (v. 24)
- Those who have sunk to this point they not only approve of evil, but approve of those who do evil, which is the main point of verse 32.
- Rejection of God and the suppression of the truth lead us to moral insanity.
- When Nebuchadnezzar defeated Jerusalem and carried away items from the temple to put them in them in the treasure house of his own gods, he concluded his god was greater than God.
- What Nebuchadnezzar failed to recognize is that God was using Nebuchadnezzar as an instrument of judgement upon Israel.
- Nebuchadnezzar wasn’t really trying to prove that his god was greater than God. Nebuchadnezzar wasn’t really that religious.
- Nebuchadnezzar’s god was really a projection of himself, an alter ego.
- The real struggle is actually between Nebuchadnezzar himself and Jehovah.
- It is exatly the struggle Paul depicts in Romans as a struggle between sinful humanity and God.
- Nebuchadnezzar did not want to acknowledge God, just as the depraved does not want to acknowledge God.
- The climax comes when Nebuchadnezzar claims, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?”(Daniel 4:30)
- This is the cry of secular humanists. It describes life as of man, by man, and for man’s glory.
- When God causes insanity in the mind of Nebuchadnezzar it is exatly what happens to those who reject God and suppress the truth. They move to a state of moral insanity.
- It is a downhill path that declares what is good to be evil, and what is evil to be good. Moral insanity.
- The outcome for Nebuchadnezzar is even worse then we first read. Nebuchadnezzar actually roams with the wild animals, eating grass, and sleeping in the fields.
- This is a dramtic picture of what Paul is saying in Roman: If we will not have God, we will not beome like God, knowing good and devil. We will become like the animals
- Read Psalm 8. We have been made lower then agnels, but higher than animals.
- We are somewhere between angel and animal. We are like the angel in that we have a soul. We are like the animals in that we have a body.
- The point is we are made to look upward toward heaven and God, not downward to the beasts.
- If we will not look up and become increasingly like God, we will look down and become like the animals.
- Looking down is what many have decided to do and then saying we are more like animals to justify our beastly behavior.
Worse Than the Animals
- Let’s go a step further. To do that we share this story from Dr. John Gerstner
- Gerstner comparied man to rats in a lecture one day.
- Listener was offended by the comparison and demanded an apology.
- Gerstner apologizes saying that it was unfair to the rat.
- What a rat does, it does by the gifts of God that make it ratlike. It does not sin.
- But we, when we behave like rats, behave worse than we should and even worse than rats. We are worse than “beasts” in our behavior.
- Do baboons kill their young? They may, but they do not systemtically murder them for thier own convenience as we do.
Is There a Bottom Rung?
- Have we reached the bottom rung in this downward slide?
- Is there a point at which we will pull back from our increasingly rapid decline and say, “this is a line we will not cross”?
- There was a time where we would draw the line at children. This may not be the case any longer.
- When we are sliding downhill we delude ourselves into thinking that we are only going to dip into sin a little bit.
- It is foolish to say you will not cross a line when it comes to sin.
- When we start down that path it won’t be long before we lose any lines we will not cross.
- At the bottom of this downward spiral is Hell.
God’s Image Restored
- Let’s not leave this section at the edge of this botomless pit.
- While it is true that our rejection of God has left us looking at the beasts, even worse than the beasts, and this has left us into a downward sprial into depravity, there is still hope.
- The gospel tell us that God has not left us to ourselves.
- In Christ, he has acted to restore what we are intent on destroying. Boice sees this in five steps:
- We were made in God’s image.
- We rejected God in Adam and therefore lost that image; we became, not like God,, knowing good and evil, but like Satan.
- Having lost the image of God and having ceased to become increasingly like him, we became like beasts and, as I have been pointing out here, even worse than beasts.
- Christ became like us, taking a human form upon himself.
- He died for us and opened up the possibility of our renewal after his image.
- Paul summarized the five points in 2 Corinthians 3.
- When we come to Christ, the question is not “How low can you go?”, but the question is “How high can you rise?”. There is no limit to that question.
Evil as defined by the “Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms” is that which opposes the will of God. It is both personal and structured oppression that takes shape in societies. It has been defined as the absence of good (Augustine). Paul in previous verses (28-31) lays out 21 different acts of evil that mankind commits. In verse 32 Paul informs us that even though people know what God commands, we continue to do these acts of Evil. We not only know what God’s commands are, but we also know that opposing God brings death. It still doesn’t matter to the sinful man, he continues in his sin. Paul ends chapter 1 of Romans by saying that man not only continues knowingly to do evil acts, they support those who do evil also. In other words, evil people become a cheerleader for those who commit evil. A question is put forth her: What is worse, those who commits the evil acts or those who approve of those who commit evil acts?
Certainly those who commit acts of evil are under the full judgement of God, but those who support and approve evil are a special case. I think about those corrupt governments who approved the use of racial cleansing as justification to kill millions. I think of those leaders of organizations who not only approve of abortion, but also commit such acts of evil. I think of those who made the decision to say it was legal to end the life of innocent children. I think of those who lead the charge to redefine marriage as being between one man and one woman as God had intended. I think of those who approve or lead the charge to legalize sex between children and adults. I think of those who want to advance the idea that abortion should be legal post-birth, sometimes up to 3 months after birth. In most cases those who approve and support evil are found to be in leadership positions, charging the way to help evil flourish. What we see in these people is what happens when God hands them over to their depraved minds, their desire to separate themselves from God. Even when God hands people over to their depraved minds, He is still in control of the evil they commit, using it to bring about good. It’s what the story of Joseph is all about, using evil for good.
No matter how evil man may grow, God is always in control. So it really doesn’t matter “how low one can go”, it is still under the sovereignty of God. As Christians we are to understand that God’s sovereignty is what makes it possible to make order out of a world that seems chaotic at times. It is the reason that Christians are told to find our peace in God and not in this world. This world will only become more evil as the day comes for Christ to return, until then, if you are a Christian, find your hope and peace in God. Pray with, and for, one another. Hold one another up for we are a community of redeemed sinners. Remember, Evil is under the foot of Christ. Christ has his foot on Satan’s neck.