Romans 1:18-32 – The Consequences That Happen To People Who Suppress The Truth About God

Paul’s letter to the Romans is one of the greatest works about theology ever written. It teaches us who God is, how He works and what He wants from us. Its author, Paul, was an apostle, a prophet and a great rabbi, who was chosen by God to bring the message of the Gospel to the nations. In this letter, Paul systematically lays out his major teachings under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Paul begins this great theological work by introducing himself. He is a servant of the Greatest Person of All – Messiah Yeshua. A servant is known by the one he serves, and someone who serves Messiah is worthy of honor. This great rabbi isn’t just any servant. Paul is an apostle. He is the Lord’s chosen representative to the nations of the world. He is someone Messiah’s Community in Rome should respect. They should believe everything he is writing to them. Paul informs them that the Gospel he proclaims is powerful and is able to save people – save them from the real and deadly forces of Satan and the demons, sin and the sin nature, death and Hell. The Good News, when received with faith, is able to make people who are not in a right relationship with God into people who are right with God. Paul now begins to elaborate why all of humanity, the Jewish people included, needs to believe the Good News. Why do all need to believe the Gospel? Because all have sinned. None is righteous. Everyone is facing divine punishment. Only our acceptance of the Good News can save us and make us righteous and avert divine condemnation.

First, Paul deals with the peoples from the nations other than Israel. The Gentiles need to receive the Gospel because they are morally and spiritually corrupt; and that makes God angry with them. The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. God is angry with people for two reasons: first, they are wicked and godless; and second, they suppress the truth about God. First, people not good. They are not neutral. They are wicked. They are godless. They consistently do things that are wrong, evil, God-dishonoring. The values, morals, thinking and actions of the people of the world are not like God’s. Their wickedness and godlessness offends God and makes Him angry with them. Second, God is angry with people because they suppress the truth about God. Instead of embracing the truth about God as they should, the peoples of the nations suppress the truth, ignore the truth, oppose the truth, teach things other than the truth – the truth that there is one God who is good and wise and powerful and righteous and who punishes sin, the God who alone is worth serving.

Suppressing the truth about God is particularly evil because He has made the truth about Himself obvious. What may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made. God has made it plain to human beings that He exists; He is real; He is a Person with great intelligence; He is eternal and powerful and has a divine nature, a nature that is superior to ours.

How has God made it obvious that He exists? By intelligent design. The wisdom, the knowledge, the intelligence, the laws of nature and the mathematical relationships that are revealed everywhere throughout creation make it plain that Someone who is far greater than we are is at work. The work of a great designer, a great engineer, a great mathematician, a great physicist is displayed everywhere around us, even in us. I’m talking about the complexities of our bodies, the complexity of the brain, and incredible things going on in our cells, like DNA and miniature machines engineering complex proteins.

How has God made it obvious that He is eternal? By creation itself. The fact that there is a very complicated universe, and human beings didn’t create it, makes it plain that Someone with intelligence vastly superior to us, Someone who preceded the creation, made the creation. Some of the early Greeks understood this, that God is the First Cause who is Himself uncaused.

The size of things in creation makes it plain that God is powerful. Everything that man has made (made in the sense of rearranged from the matter than God created out of nothing but His mind and power) would only make a fraction of the size of Earth. The Earth is a tiny fraction of the size of the sun. More than 1 million Earths can fit inside the sun. The size of the sun is a tiny fraction compared with other stars like Eta Carinae, which is 5 million times larger than our sun. Betelgeuse is 300 times larger than Eta Carinae! The size of Earth and the stars make it plain that God, who made these great things, is powerful.

How has God made it obvious that He has a nature that is superior to us? The fact that the universe is superior to anything man can make – that the best of our works are inferior to the works of the Creator – makes it plain that the Creator is superior to us. Some examples: The engineering that goes into a caterpillar dissolving its body and rearranging it and becoming a butterfly is levels beyond anything our greatest engineers can accomplish. Our best helicopters, based on the designs of our best engineers, don’t have the maneuverability of a hummingbird. Some lizards and other animals can lose their body parts, but are able to regenerate them. An axolotl, which is a Mexican salamander, can regenerate a missing limb, tail, and parts of its brain, heart, and lower jaw. A starfish has the ability to regenerate its arms and sometimes its whole body. A flatworm that is cut in half will regenerate and become two worms. The part without the head will not only re-grow a new head, but it will retain learned information as well as flatworms that never lost their heads. These regenerative abilities are superior to the healing abilities of our best doctors. One last example: How many people and how many man-hours accumulated over the decades do you think it took to design the latest supercomputer? I’d guess thousands or tens of thousands of programmers and millions or billions of man-hours. Would it surprise you to learn that the human brain is at least as fast as the fastest supercomputer, and may be up to 30 times faster  No human being will be excused for denying the existence of the Creator, who is superior to us, who is far more intelligent than we are, who is powerful and eternal. What may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. If you are an agnostic, and claim that there is not enough evidence to believe in God, you will have no excuse on the Day of Judgment. There is plenty of evidence. You are without excuse. If you are an atheist and deny that God exists – you will have no excuse on the Day of Judgment. You are without excuse.

The Creator not only is intelligent and powerful and eternal, He has the ability to experience emotions. One of the emotions He is able to experience is anger. The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness. God is righteous – perfectly righteous. He is committed to what is right. He loves what is right. He is not indifferent to the godlessness and wickedness of human beings and their suppression of the truth about Him. He is angry with them for it. We can know that He is angered by people who are wicked and who suppress the truth about Him because His wrath is being revealed from Heaven. When He punishes wicked cities, like Sodom and Gomorrah, we see His wrath being revealed. When a wicked man is punished, we see God’s wrath being revealed. When we observe the consequences of sin, like an adulterer who contracts a sexually transmitted disease, we see the wrath of God being revealed from heaven.

What we believe about God is critical to our well-being. Our knowledge about God affects our thinking and our values and our behaviors. Knowing the truth about God is essential for righting thinking, right actions, right morals and civilized living. It’s critically important to know that God exists; He has a divine nature that is superior to ours; He is wise and powerful and eternal; and He is righteous and punishes sinners. There are a lot of important truths, but knowing the truth about God is the most important knowledge of all. Why? Because human nature is not good. It is not neutral. It is fallen. It is dark. It is sinful. It is corrupt. An individual or a society that suppresses the truth about God begins a descent into darkness, spiritual confusion, and mental and moral and sexual chaos. Here’s what happens: Noah and his sons and their wives survived the Flood. They knew the God who was righteous and who punished sin. When they came out of the ark, they honored God. They thanked God. They served God. They obeyed God. God made a covenant with them, allowing them to do certain things but not do other things. They could kill and eat animals but not eat their blood. They could not murder human beings, but they could execute human beings who murdered other human beings. They had good morality – at least most of them. They knew the nakedness of Noah should be covered, not uncovered. However, within several generations, the descendants of Noah, Shem, Yafet and Cham, turned away from the truth about the one true and living Creator God. They worshiped made-up gods, and the descent into depravity began. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles. The generations after the Flood became fools. They engaged in stupid and harmful thinking and living. They stopped honoring God, thanking Him or obeying Him. They rejected the truth that there is one glorious, magnificent, majestic, beautiful, incorruptible, immortal God who created the universe and everything in it, who is superior to the universe and everything in it, who is involved with the universe but distinct from the universe. The generations after the Flood rejected the truth about the one true Creator God and embraced the lie that there are many gods, powerful people-like gods, powerful bird-like gods, powerful animal-like gods, powerful reptile-like gods. Paul calls this rejection of the truth about God darkness, futility, foolishness. It is dark thinking that leads to chaos and death. It is futile thinking that leads to empty, worthless, wasted lives. It is foolish thinking that leads to harm and loss.

Of course, this rejection of the true God and the substitution of made-up gods was insulting to the Creator. It made Him angry. He punished humanity for denying Him, rejecting Him, insulting Him. He did not punish the nations directly, with Sodom-and-Gomorrah-like-judgment, but indirectly, by allowing the world to experience the consequences of suppressing the truth about His reality. The nations wanted to turn away from the truth that there is one good and righteous God? Invent false gods who were frequently immoral and cruel? Fine. God would give them enough rope to hang themselves. He would allow them to live the way they wanted and worship what they wanted. Let them see how well that worked for them. And it didn’t work well. It was a disaster. The first consequence of turning away from God was violating very important God-ordained sexual boundaries. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator – who is forever praised. Amen.

The fall of man affected every aspect of who we are, including our sexuality, which is a big part of who we are. God designed us to be male and female. Male and female gender is the Creator’s design for us to have companionship and be able to reproduce and create other human beings who bear the image of God and have the potential to live forever. By creating us male and female, God enabled men and women to bond with each other and help each other through life. They can have families in which a new generation can be raised. Male-female sexuality is part of the natural order and should only be expressed within the male-female marriage relationship. Any sexual activity outside the male-female marriage relationship defies God and harms those who engage in it. God designed us to be male and female. God designed us to have sexual desires, but we must stay within the natural order and the sexual boundaries that God designed. However, if we reject the truth about God, it becomes easy to ignore God’s sexual boundaries and allow dark sexual desires that come from a fallen nature to be expressed. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

There are a lot of lies being propagated about homosexuality in our culture today. We need God’s perspective. Pay attention to the words that the Lord’s representative uses to describe it: It is degrading. It is impure. It is a sinful desire. It is a shameful lust. It is a shameful act. It is unnatural. It is an error. Those who engage in it will receive a penalty. What penalty? What punishment? Homosexuality is its own penalty. It prevents the one engaging in it from obeying God, from honoring God, from being close to God – and not being close to the One who is the Source of Life is a punishment in itself. Those who engage in homosexuality are doing something shameful and degrading, and doing something shameful and degrading is a punishment in itself. And a future, greater penalty awaits. The one who refuses to turn away from homosexuality will be punished on the Day of Judgment. We need to have God’s perspective, not a fallen society’s perspective, about homosexuality. Homosexuality is wrong. It is unnatural. It is a sin, and we hate sin. But we must also have God’s perspective about sin. We hate the sin but we love the sinner. We don’t hate homosexuals. We don’t hurt them. We love them. But love is based on truth, and one of the ways we love homosexuals is by telling them the truth: They are sinning and need to turn from their sin; God’s grace will be sufficient to help them do that; and we will be there to help them, too.

The Rabbi continues describing the consequences of rejecting the truth about God. The consequences weren’t limited to violations of sexual boundaries. Every kind of moral boundary was violated. Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. The God-rejecting world after the Flood became filled with every kind of wickedness, evil and depravity. They became full of greed and envy: never satisfied, never content, always wanting more, wanting what rightfully belonged to others, scheming to take the things they envied from others. They became full of malice. And they gave in to their hatred. They acted on their hatred. They became murderers. Not all killing is murder. There is legitimate killing, as in a just war, or a policeman using deadly force to protect society. But people illegitimately killed human beings made in the image of God. They became full of strife. People were unable to get along with others. Lots of disagreements, fighting, rebellions, revolts, coups, civil wars, wars against other nations. Strife between people; strife between groups; strife between nations; strife over religion; strife over land; strife over money, power, control. The history of the world is a history of strife. Another way they expressed their malice was by using words that undermine, harm, ruin, destroy. They became gossips and slanderers. They became full of deceit. They lied, deceived, cheated, and defrauded frequently and regularly. They became God-haters. When it comes to God, you can’t be neutral. You love God or you hate God. You are for God or you are against God. You end your part in the great rebellion against Him and become loyal to Him, or you remain part of the great rebellion and are a rebel. They became insolent, arrogant and boastful. In relationship to God, they acted independently from Him. They did not act as if He was the Creator and they were the creature. In relationship to people, they thought too much of their own importance and too little about the importance of others. They invented ways of doing evil. The old evil wasn’t enough. They invented new sins, new crimes, new perversions. Sin is affected by the law of diminishing returns. The more you engage in a sinful habit that brings you pleasure, the more you need to do it to maintain the same level of pleasure. The heroin or cocaine addict, or the alcoholic, needs more and more heroin, coke or alcohol to maintain the same high. The sadist needs to inflict more pain. Those who sin with pornography may become sexually promiscuous, have an affair or engage in prostitution. Over time, sinners enter a dark, downward spiral and become more hardened, more jaded, more corrupt, more sinful. And so do entire societies – like ours. God designed the family so that parents are in a God-ordained position to provide for and protect and teach their children. Parents are to be respected. But people became disobedient to their parents, which dishonors the parents and dishonors God, who put them in their position. They lost their understanding, fidelity, love, mercy. They became foolish, disloyal, heartless, cruel.

People have an innate sense that those who are evil and corrupt deserve to be punished – but that knowledge doesn’t stop most people from doing bad things themselves or encouraging others to do bad things. Although 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 of those who practice them. Knowledge about sin and righteousness and punishment is not enough to transform fallen human beings the way we need to be transformed, or even change our bad behaviors.  Something from outside of ourselves is needed to do that, and that something has been provided – the Gospel. Accepting the truth about the existence of the one true and living God and accepting the Good News about the Messiah enables us to be saved, transformed and empowered to live a God-honoring life.

Avinu Malkaynu, our Father and our King, thank You for Paul and his divinely inspired teachings, which are so valuable, so helpful, so beneficial – especially this letter to the Romans. Thank You for making it obvious to us that You are real, that You are eternal and powerful and have a divine nature, that You are righteous, that You get angry with sin. Help us know You and live in a way that causes You to be pleased with us, not angry with us. Thank You for making us male and female. Help us stay within Your God-designed sexual boundaries. Help our society repent of the lies it is teaching about gender issues and sexual issues, and return to the truth. Thank You for the Gospel, this amazing message that can save us and transform us. Lord, You have the right to be angry with people who suppress the truth about You, who oppose the Gospel, who are in a dark, downward spiral, like our nation. We pray for our nation, that You would turn things around and bring us back to the truth about You. Help us live in a way that honors You. Avinu Malkaynu, our Father and our King, we may not suppress the truth about You by worshiping people-like gods, bird-like gods, animal-like gods, reptile-like gods. But many have done something similar – rejecting You to worship idols of their own creation, the things they love more than You, the causes they love more than You, the ideas they love more than You. Help us not to do that, and help those who are doing that to end their idolatry and serve You, the one glorious, magnificent, majestic, beautiful, incorruptible, immortal God who created the universe and everything in it, the God alone who can save and redeem. Amen.