Here we are presented with a stark contrast of the Gospel against the backdrop of the horror of the complete lostness of man. Chapter 1:18 through 3:20 is really one literary context. Notice in verse 18, “The wrath of God…” – the Bible talks much about God’s love, but i submit to you this same book that tells us how much God loves us is the book that tells us of the horror of the judgment, of the wrath of God. The mountain of God’s love is only seen clearly against the backdrop of the mountain of God’s wrath against sin and rebellion. So here we have God’s wrath, and God’s wrath is no more anthropomorphic than God’s love. “is being revealed…” – this is the word ‘apokalupto’ being clearly revealed, where we see God’s wrath so clearly (the verb is in present tense). We see it in human history; just look around you, and the history of man is nothing more than a long series of man’s greed, selfishness, and man’s inhumanity to man. And it is really unbelievable to the read the history of the world. Notice, “…against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness,” – you know, it’s not they’re ignorant of the truth; they are suppressing it. They are wilfully holding back the truth, therefore they are without excuse (vs.20). Verse 19 and verse 18 are related to verse 20; this is why they are without excuse: they have some of God’s revelation but they have willfully turned from it. Look at verse 19 and read through 23 you will learn the pagan world rejects God. And verse 24 and following is God rejecting the pagan world. Now, “since what may be known about God is plain to them,…” – There are three types of revelation: the first type of revelation is natural revelation that comes in creation. That’s what we’re talking about in this passage; it’s natural revelation and it’s available to all men. Now we learn from chapter 2:14-15 a very important truth that every human being has an inner moral sense we call conscience. And finally we have the Good News that Paul’s been talking about all the way through here; the Good News of Jesus Christ – that is Special Revelation. It is the written Word of the Old Testament fully embodied in the Living Word in Jesus Christ, and accurately conveyed in the New Testament that we’re talking about. Notice if you would where it mentions, “…because God has made it plain to them.” – through their inner moral sense, God Himself has shown it to them since the creation of the world His invisible characteristics. Now two things: His eternal power and divine nature have been evident from the physical creation. Friends, you can’t see the power of nature and not be awed by it; you can’t see the intricacies, and pattern, and scheme, and plan of nature and not realize a Designer. All of the proofs of God from Thomas Aquinas to the modern proofs are based on the purposefulness of creation. This word for ‘divine nature’ – ‘theiotes’ in Greek is also used in Colossians 2:9. “…have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” – they have light, but they have rejected light. “For although they knew God,…” – now friends, most modern theories say that we are evolving from an animistic religion up to monotheism – this is baloney, pure baloney! We are not progressing by any stretch of imagination; the Bible says, from the fall of Babel there has been a crash of man. From Genesis 3 to Genesis 6 on there is a downward move. Men once knew God far more than they know Him, and now it’s on a full decline and the pagan religions reflect that. “…they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.” – this is the Biblical term ‘vain’, ‘Mataioo’ in Greek. It’s used in the Old Testament for ‘idols’, for nothingness, for vanity, for frailty, for fleetingness and that’s what it’s used here. Their insensible hearts have been shrouded in darkness. O, may God help us! Man knew something of God, and man turned away. And now that man has turned away, God has turned away from man. The first we have is, they rejected God in verse 18, and now we have God rejects them in verse 21. Notice if you would as it says, “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.” – sinful man has lost sight of the God’s unique majesty, and substituted idols of their own imaginations patterned after various creatures (cf. three categories of animals in Genesis 1 through 3).
Now in verse 24, “Therefore God gave them over…” – this little phrase like the hammered falling of judgment of God is also seen in verses 26 and 28; God allowed sin to run its course on sinful man as an act of judgment. “…in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity…” – evident here is one obvious characteristic of fallen man- sexual perversion. The Graeco-Roman world was rampant with the sin of homosexuality. Homosexuality is not the ugliest aspect of a fallen world, but certainly it’s one of its clearest easily viewed aspect. Paul picks it as one of the list in verses 29-30. Now, the problem of homosexuality is it’s not in the will of God. It does not fulfill procreation. It’s not His way of dealing between men and women, and therefore it is out of the will of God (cf. Lev. 18:22; 20:13). I love homosexual people; I want to share the Gospel with them. It’s just a sin like any other, and the real problem with homosexuality is that it’s a lifestyle sin that pulls away people from fellowship with God. So, it is one of many that was so evident in the Graeco-Roman world. And friends, i would say, what is becoming more evident in our culture says something about what our culture has done with the light of God. If you read through this, you can see exactly what’s happened – their females have exchanged their natural functions for what’s unnatural; men committed shameful acts with other men. They’re consumed with flaming passions, and overflowed with every sort of evil doing. You might want to see Galatians 5:19-21 for another list of the sins of fallen man which is so evident here. “Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death,…” (cf. Rom. 6:23) – this is setting the stage for Romans 2:13 that says something of man’s inner moral sense. C.S. Lewis said that no anthropologist has ever found a culture where man was not religious. Man had innate ideas like taking a man’s life is wrong; stealing, lying are wrong in every culture. And that reflects that inner moral sense that’s assumed specifically in the Ten Commandments. Friends, people who are running from God know they deserved the judgment of God. Bertrand Russell once said, “I don’t reject Christianity intellectually, I reject it because of its moral restrictions”. Men know in their hearts and from their world that there is a God, and there’s going to be a judgment one day, but they turn away yet. “they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.” – this is fallen psychology that says, “if i do it and feel guilty, but if i can make you do it, i’ll feel better”. So what lost man tries to do is pull everybody else down the same sewer they wallow in. And “if the whole society is doing it” is the common excuse for why we can do godless, selfish, greedy, lustful things to one another. But friends, there is a moral red light that goes off in man’s heart when things are inappropriate. Because if you are a Christian, you have the Holy Spirit in you. But even if you’re not, there is a tinge of conscience, and a problem from the physical world when we rebel against God’s will for our lives.