Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Romans 1:24-32:
"God Gave Them Over"

[Crossposted to Street Prophets. The index for the series is here.]

I am using Carl Palmer's titles for these posts. The appropriate links are:

The text is:

(NET) Romans 1:24 Therefore God gave them over48 in the desires of their hearts to impurity, to dishonor49 their bodies among themselves.50 25 They51 exchanged the truth of God for a lie52 and worshiped and served the creation53 rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them over to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged the natural sexual relations for unnatural ones,54 27 and likewise the men also abandoned natural relations with women55 and were inflamed in their passions56 for one another. Men57 committed shameless acts with men and received in themselves the due penalty for their error. 28 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God,58 God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what should not be done.59 29 They are filled60 with every kind of unrighteousness, wickedness, covetousness, malice. They are rife with61 envy, murder, strife, deceit, hostility. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, contrivers of all sorts of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 senseless, covenant-breakers,62 heartless, ruthless. 32 Although they fully know63 God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die,64 they not only do them but also approve of those who practice them.65

48 sn Possibly an allusion to
Ps 81:12

49 tn The genitive articular infinitive τοῦ ἀτιμάζεσθαι (tou atimazesthai, “to dishonor”) has been taken as (1) an infinitive of purpose; (2) an infinitive of result; or (3) an epexegetical (i.e., explanatory) infinitive, expanding the previous clause.

50 tn Grk “among them.”

51 tn Grk “who.” The relative pronoun was converted to a personal pronoun and, because of the length and complexity of the Greek sentence, a new sentence was started here in the translation.

52 tn Grk “the lie.”
53 tn Or “creature, created things.”

54 tn Grk “for their females exchanged the natural function for that which is contrary to nature.” The term χρῆσις (chrēsis) has the force of “sexual relations” here (L&N 23.65).

55 tn Grk “likewise so also the males abandoning the natural function of the female.”
56 tn Grk “burned with intense desire” (L&N 25.16).

57 tn Grk “another, men committing…and receiving,” continuing the description of their deeds. Because of the length and complexity of the Greek sentence, a new sentence was started here in the translation.

58 tn Grk “and just as they did not approve to have God in knowledge.”
59 tn Grk “the things that are improper.”

60 tn Grk “being filled” or “having been filled,” referring to those described in v. 28. Because of the length and complexity of the Greek sentence, a new sentence was started here in the translation.

61 tn Grk “malice, full of,” continuing the description. Because of the length and complexity of the Greek sentence, a new sentence was started here in the translation.

62 tn Or “promise-breakers.”

63 tn Grk “who, knowing…, not only do them but also approve…” Because of the length and complexity of the Greek sentence, a new sentence was started here in the translation.

64 tn Grk “are worthy of death.”

65 sn “Vice lists” like vv. 28–32 can be found elsewhere in the NT in
Matt 15:19; Gal 5:19–21; 1 Tim 1:9–10; and 1 Pet 4:3. An example from the intertestamental period can be found in Wis 14:25–26.

Biblical Studies Press. (2006; 2006). The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible. Biblical Studies Press.

My Comments: For over 12 years as a follower of Christ I was able to say - when confronted during the "culture wars" - that I had never been in a church where the subject of homosexuality had come up in a sermon. Since I have always attended expositional churches, I would only have heard such a message if one of my pastors had worked their way through one of the three or four places in scripture where it was mentioned.

Technically, I can still say that - I was not attending Cedar Mill Bible July 6th of last year when this message was actually given. However, since I am going through this sermon series at Brain Cramps and Street Prophets I guess I no longer have that out. Now, you can also listen to a theologically conservative, Evangelical pastor handle this topic. I will say that I think Carl did an awesome job getting to the point of these verses - and that wasn't homosexuality. Tell me what you think.

Regretfully, the focus of this section often gets lost on verses 26-27. I am not going to say that Paul did not consider sexual sin to be important - he did. You can see that in 1 Corinthians 6:
18 Flee sexual immorality! “Every sin a person commits is outside of the body” – but the immoral person sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God with your body.
Therefore, I will not say that in the "vice list" from 26-32 that Paul did not intend to put sexual sin first. However, I will say that it is still one thing on a long list. I will also say that Carl may be right: Paul chose homosexuality as the example of wrong sexual desires because it was the clearest example of the dichotomy between our created nature and our human nature. Who really knows - Paul didn't explain it.

More importantly to me, the key words are ". . . gave them over" This is critical here: I believe there are two different versions of "natural". The first is - as Carl and others have called it - the created design of God. The second is our own human (fallen) natures. That is two different forms of "natural". What this passage says is that the entire "vice list" is indeed natural (in the second sense) for us as humans - but not what we were designed to be. Indeed, that this is part of our human nature is the reason Christ said:

John 3:3 Jesus replied, “I tell you the solemn truth, unless a person is born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter his mother’s womb and be born a second time, can he?” 5 Jesus answered, “I tell you the solemn truth, unless a person is born of water and spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must all be born from above.’
What God does when we "suppress the truth by [our] unrighteousness" is give us over to keep doing it - whatever "it" is. He essentially says: "if that is the way you want to do things, then I will remove all My restraints and give you over to doing things your way. Have at it. Have fun. Hopefully, you will bottom out and no longer be able to ignore the truth you have been suppressing." In other words - as Carl Palmer put it - God's punishment for our sin is more sin.

The overall point of the passage is pointed to in the beginning of Romans 2 (next time) - and leads up to the summary statement near the end of the first 3 chapters:

Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
That, to me, is the point we need to take from this section of scripture. Paul, in my mind, was trying to come up with a list that everyone would be included in - so that "no one can boast". We all have - to some degree or another - "suppressed the truth with [our] unrighteousness" - all of us. We have all incurred the wrath of God so that He gives us over to continue doing these unrighteousness things if that is what we wish - He will not stop you. God is not going to step in and take our personal "dishonorable passions" and "depraved minds" from us as some would pray. We all - every day - have to fight the battle to be what we were designed to be rather than what comes naturally to us.

So, make the list from Romans 1:24-32 whatever you want it to be - just do not leave your own dishonorable passions and depraved mind out. Whoever you are - you are included here. Indeed, you should really only be worried about the things on the list that apply to you; and not the ones that apply to others. I think you should forget those - please:

Matthew 7:3 Why do you see the speck in your brother’s eye, but fail to see the beam of wood in your own? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye,’ while there is a beam in your own? 5 You hypocrite! First remove the beam from your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
Appendix: Textual Issue?

Next: Romans 2:1-5 -- "Judgment and the Judgmental"

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How to debate charitably (rules are links to more description of rule):
1. The Golden Rule
2. You cannot read minds
3. People are not evil
4. Debates are not for winning
5. You make mistakes
6. Not everyone cares as much as you
7. Engaging is hard work
8. Differences can be subtle
9. Give up quietly