Topic: Expository Passage: Romans 1:24–27
(Read Romans 1:18–27) Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, I’m sure you’ve noticed all the boasting this month about sexual pride. The rainbow is everywhere from business logos to baseball uniforms communicating a message that someone from 20 years ago wouldn’t remotely recognize.
Our culture has changed rapidly and dramatically. And it’s not just that people are openly celebrating values that were once considered shameful; the revolutionaries are redefining what it means to be human, what it means to love, and how people define ultimate truth and morality.
Now, some of you may respond, “It’s all a bunch of nonsense. I won’t fall for any of it!” Revolutionaries know that, so they are content to simply bypass you and indoctrinate your children and grandchildren with their compelling, powerful message.
If we are going to reach them for Christ and raise up biblically faithful disciples of Christ, we must do better than screaming at the revolutionaries or sarcastically mocking them. More than ever, we must understand what we believe and why we believe it, and we need to know how to lovingly articulate it for the next generation.
And I’m sure there are some people here who struggle with the things we will discuss. Maybe you’ve experienced SSA, maybe you are confused by the competing messages you are being taught, or maybe you think the Bible got it wrong. Wherever you are, this passage has something important for you.
But as always, our first concern is to understand what God originally said, so I want to walk carefully through the text. From there, we will walk carefully through the application of this passage within the broader context of Scripture to life in our rapidly changing culture. Let’s begin in v. 25 with…
I. Man’s Rebellion (v. 25)
This verse summarizes much of what we saw last week in vv. 19–23. It mentions 3 truths about God that he has revealed to all people.
God is the Creator: Verse 25 calls God “the Creator,” and vv. 19–20 say that creation clearly reflects the design of an intelligent God. This is his world, and we are his creation. Therefore, a 2nd important truth about God…
God demands our worship. This is the central concern of vv. 18–32. Verses 21, 23 condemn mankind for refusing to honor and worship God, and v. 25 condemns them for “worshipping and serving the creature rather than the Creator.” So, an important assumption of vv. 18–32 is that because God is our Creator and Lord, we must worship and serve him in all of life. To do anything less is utterly rebellious.
As our culture secularizes, we need to emphasize this fact more and more, because it is foundational to the gospel. God doesn’t exist for us; we exist for him. We were made to worship and serve God. Then we must complement this with a 3rd truth…
God is good. Paul ends v. 25 with a short doxology. God “is blessed forever. Amen.” The implication is that it is utterly foolish to worship and serve anything other than God because God is good, and he gives good gifts to those who serve him. He is “blessed forever.”
This is an important truth that we must believe and emphasize as we teach God’s Word to others. Yes, God’s Word includes many laws and boundaries. Ever since Genesis 3 Satan has been telling people that these boundaries are oppressive and tyrannical.
But it’s a terrible lie. For example, traffic laws don’t oppress; instead, they free everyone to use our roads safely and efficiently. In the same way, God’s law frees us to enjoy life in his blessing. It’s vital that we see through Satan’s ruse and believe in the goodness of God’s will. I’ll say more about that later. So, v. 25 emphasizes 3 foundational truths about God, but it also tragically describes…
The Foolish Rebellion of Sinners: Notice that v. 25 is built on two foolish and rebellious choices that sinners have made innumerable times. First, “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie.” The primary lie in context is that idols are really gods.
But Paul is probably also thinking broadly of the futile, foolish speculations of v. 21. Sinners have imagined all sorts of nonsense to compete with the “truth of God.” These lies come in the form of false religions, godless philosophies, and many other things. They appeal to fallen sinners in various ways, but they are all lies, and none of them compare to God.
The second exchange is that sinners choose to “worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator.” Once again, it is utterly foolish, and yet it happens over and over. And lest we look down our noses at others, we all do this on a smaller scale. We often prioritize petty, fading passions over God’s eternal, holy and good will. We fail to honor God as he deserves
Again, I want to emphasize that this failure to rightly worship God is the fundamental sin of vv. 18–32, and it is the primary occasion for God’s wrath. That’s why 26 begins with “for this reason.” And all the other sins listed in vv. 26–31 spring from refusing to honor God as he deserves.
We must remember this point as we begin discussing sexual rebellion. You may think, “I’m safe today because I’ve never done any of that stuff.” Or you may be tempted to merely sit there enraged at other people’s sins.
Yes, a lot of it is very bad, but putting anything ahead of God makes me an idolater. You can idolize politics, status, hobbies, leisure, and anything else. The cleanest looking idol is still an idol deserving of God’s wrath.
Therefore, the most important application of vv. 18–32 is that you must honor the Lord as he deserves. Do not let anything that takes his place in your heart, because God will not tolerate competitors. So, people consistently rebel against God by refusing to honor him as sovereign Lord. Therefore, notice…
II. God’s Response (v. 24)
Verses, 24, 26, 27 all focus on man’s rebellion against God’s original, sexual design. This rebellion has taken center stage in our society, and the messaging and the lure of sexual temptation of various forms (not just homosexual) can be incredibly powerful. Therefore, I want to frame the remainder of our time by first emphasizing that…
God’s design for human sexuality is good and for our good. What God made in Genesis 2 is absolutely beautiful. And the way he did it emphasizes the beauty and goodness of his design.
Specifically, after saying that everything else in creation was “very good” he said of Adam, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him” (Gen 2:18). Adam was incomplete on multiple levels. He was alone, he couldn’t reproduce, and even if he could, he was inadequate to raise children well.
So, God made “a helper suitable for him.” Helper means she “provides what is lacking” (Ross), and suitable means “corresponding to.” I like to say, “God made us to be married.” God made men and a women to complete each other and to raise children in the lifelong covenant of marriage. He seals this fact by saying, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh” (Gen 2:24).
This design is good, and as much as our culture wants to ignore it, the evidence overwhelming demonstrates that God’s design produces far more joy and human flourishing than any alternative. We thrive in healthy, loving, committed marriages.
Sure, there are exceptions, though there are not nearly as many as we sometimes think. And in a fallen world, not everyone enjoys a good spouse. But the exceptions don’t change the goodness and wisdom of marriage.
And the evidence also overwhelming states that children thrive within God’s design right down to the detail of the father being the primary bread winner and the mother focusing her energy on the home. Men and women bring different gifts to parenting, and when they work together in a healthy marriage, children consistently do better.
That’s not to say that God’s grace can’t overcome broken homes and the consequences of a fallen world. Many of you are testimonies to that grace. Praise God for you. But let’s also uphold God’s good purpose.
Yes, honoring God’s design for the family requires sacrifice for everyone involved, but his design is good. So young people, don’t be fooled by the narrative of our culture that the most exciting, fulfilling life is one free of responsibility and commitment or that your passions will lead you to a better place than God’s design. Prepare and pursue God’s design, and you will not regret it.
Returning to the narrative of our text, because mankind rebels against worshipping God, v. 24 and vv. 26ff say that…
God judges sinners by handing them over to the consequences of their rebellion. Verse 24 says “God gave them over.” Notice that Paul repeats this phrase in vv. 26, 28. In each case, this phrase describes God’s judgment that stems from his wrath.
Specifically, it describes how God judges sinners by removing his restraint and allowing them to spiral into further rebellion and the natural consequences of their sin.
The Bible teaches that God graciously restrains sinners from being as bad as they otherwise would be. However, when they consistently refuse to honor him, God often judges by simply removing his restraint and by allowing people to endure the natural destruction of their sin.
As such, I’ve heard Christians say that God’s judgment on our nation must be coming because of how evil we have become. But Paul says that these evils are the judgment of God for the more foundational sin of refusing to worship him. It’s not that we will be judged; we are being judged.
We see it everywhere. Our society is increasingly plagued with violence, mental disorders, physical and sexual abuse, drug abuse and other things. Much of it can be directly attributed to the breakdown of the family and the other ways Romans 1 says that people reject God’s will.
God doesn’t cause any of it; he simply leaves people to the consequences of their rebellion. Once again, you can’t improve on God’s will. The world tells you that morality and ethics are oppressive and to express whatever passions arise in your heart. It’s absolute nonsense. God’s way is always the best way. Hold fast to him. Then notice where man’s rebellion leads him.
III. Man’s Self-Degradation (vv. 24b, 26–27)
I see 3 stages to man’s self-degradation. The first is…
Sinners pursue unrestrained passion. Notice the emphasis in on sinful passions. Verse 24 mentions “the lusts of their hearts.” Verse 26 says “degrading passions,” and v. 27 says, “burned in their desire.” So, this spiral all begins with people allowing passion to rule over truth.
It’s tragic how perfectly this fits our day. Pastor Tim, Dustin, and I just finished reading a book on how the sexual revolution came about. This quote captures a foundational shift away from biblical thinking, “The modern self assumes the authority of inner feelings and sees authenticity as defined by the ability to give social expression to the same…Such a self is defined by what is called expressive individualism” (Carl Trueman, p. 22).
People believe that authority and truth spring from within me not outside me and that expressing whatever I feel is the height of virtue.
And Sigmund Freud came along and said that the pinnacle of self-expression is through sexual passions. Freud said, “Man’s discovery that sexual (genital) love afforded him the strongest experiences of satisfaction and in fact provided him with the prototype of all happiness, must have suggested to him that he should continue to seek the satisfaction of happiness in his life along the path of sexual relations and that he should make genital erotism the central point of his life” (Sigmund Freud, quoted in Trueman, p. 73). That’s so creepy and so hopeless. Life has to be about so much more than sex.
And yet this is increasingly the gospel of our age. People believe that expressing and indulging whatever sexual passion arises in their hearts is vital to being who they are and living the best life.
But it is a fool’s errand. We are made in God’s image, and we will only find rest in him. And erotism can never equal the lifelong blessing of marriage and other meaningful relationships that grow from commitment, duty, and self-sacrifice. God’s way will always be better than my way. The 2nd stage of the spiral is that…
Unrestrained passion produces perversion. Notice that vv. 26–27 assume that God has revealed through our bodily makeup what is natural and good. Nature makes it obvious that the male and female bodies were made for each other, and this union is the only way that we can have children.
The Bible is also clear about this fact. Again, God said from the beginning, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh” (Gen 2:24). God created marriage, and it is only between a man and a woman, and the sexual relationship is a wonderful expression of this union and is solely for this union.
But our text says that when people prioritize passion over truth, they spiral into perversions of God’s design. Verses 26 and 27 specifically mention homosexual behavior among both women and men (read). God is clear that homosexuality is rebellion against God’s design. Verse 27 calls it “indecent” (i.e., shameful).
Now, some people push back by saying that God is only condemning unnatural homosexuality, or homosexual behavior by someone who was not born a homosexual. This argument assumes “the authority of inner feelings” as ultimately determining who I am.” In other words, my feelings determine my gender, not my body.
But that sort of distinction would never have occurred to Paul. In his world, “natural” must mean the body and its natural function. There’s simply no room in the biblical ethic for any sort of homosexual lifestyle.
Beyond that, it’s not hard to see that we are on very shaky ground when we try to anchor my identity in feelings because feelings are inherently volatile.
Now, I don’t doubt the fact that some people feel SSA. I feel for these people because they often feel like misfits, and they endure harsh, nasty abuse. We need to love all people and point them to the hope of the gospel.
But our society to zealously push the claim that sexual identity is as firm as something like race. We often hear, “I was born this way.” But genetic science doesn’t actually say this. It demonstrates that environment, life patterns, and experience are major factors that lead people toward these lifestyles. “I was born this way” is based on the assumptions of expressive individualism, not objective science.
And I doubt that “I was born this way” can survive the introduction of things like transgenderism or gender fluidity. All the movement is away from objective biology and toward subjective feelings—expressive individualism.
None of is stable, and all of it is a tragic rebellion against the goodness of God’s original design. Which brings us to the 3rd stage of the spiral…
Perversion produces devastation. Verse 27 ends by saying, “receiving in their…” The fundamental “error” in context is the refusal to worship God. Therefore, the penalty of refusing to worship God is erotic sexuality and its destructive effects on the individual and on society as a whole.
When you reject the stability, love, and commitment of the biblical family, you may enjoy some temporary pleasure, but consequences are drastic. Without the commitments of family, people run to destructive leisurely activities like gambling and drunkenness. Marital love gets replaced with prostitution and ultimately sexual and physical abuse.
And when you abandon family and church as stabilizing sources of love and identity, and instead you are told that you must create an identify from scratch and chase one pleasure after another, is it any wonder that people are enslaved to debt and addiction, lonely, and depressed? There are a lot of people around us who are hurting and despairing of life. It’s tragic.
And all of this is creating an unstable, neglectful environment for children who desperately need stability, love, and discipline. No wonder they are angry, depressed, and violent. It’s all terribly tragic. So, how should we respond to it all? I’d like to pull all of this together into 3 important conclusions.
Stand unapologetically on God’s Word. Yes, the world is making a lot of noise on these issues. They will do everything they can to intimidate you and to mock God’s design. But don’t forget that God’s design is good.
Young people, God’s design is good for you. Don’t buy the world’s lies, and don’t think that you can mess around now and then settle down later without consequence. Be holy, be satisfied in the Lord, and build habits that will enable you to enjoy a lifetime of fulfillment in God’s design. It is good.
If you have strayed from God’s design, established ungodly habits, or you are just confused, please get biblical counsel. We will love you, we will be careful with your information, and we will shepherd you to Christ. And I promise that Christ will be better than anything you have to leave behind.
For all of us, stay faithful to God’s Word. You may get called homophobic (which is absurd). You may lose relationships. Someday, it may cost you a job. Standing on Scripture is going to increasingly push us to the edges of society. But God’s approval is worth any cost. The world can’t take anything from you that can replace God’s favor and blessing. Determine by God’s grace that he will find you faithful.
Teach courageously, carefully, and compassionately. When I was in high school, peer pressure was enough to keep most people far away from most of this stuff. A dad could just crack a sarcastic joke and do the trick. That won’t due anymore, and it may discourage your children and others from asking the hard questions that they need to get answered.
You must do better if you are going to impact the next generation. Work to understand the messaging that is being directed at our kids and be prepared to give thoughtful, biblical, compassionate, and age-appropriate answers.
Maintain a gospel-focus. Much of what is happening in our culture is scary, and it’s very easy to focus on what can we do to fix it all. Then we pour all our energy into fighting the revolution through debate and political action.
God has called us to be salt and light, so those things have their place, but don’t forget that our primary calling is not to be culture warriors but gospel warriors. And yes, many people in our country are teaching and practicing wickedness, but we must see them as lost souls before we see them as cultural rivals.
And then know that many of them are confused, hopeless, and lonely. They aren’t the proud cultural Christians of the 1950s who thought they had everything together. They know they have problems, and we have the answers in God’s Word. Let’s work to get to know them and love them. Then tell them who God is and what he has done for us in Christ. Then invite them to find their rest in the only place where it is available—in a gospel relationship with our good and sovereign Creator.