In Romans 1:21-25, we are told three things about mankind:
1. Mankind knew God.
2. Mankind glorified Him not as God.
3. Mankind exchanged the truth of God for the lie.
Therefore, the wrath of God is continually revealed against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness.
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 . . .
THEY NEITHER GLORIFIED HIM AS GOD NOR GAVE THANKS TO HIM. Can you imagine how God must feel? He has created man in His image and likeness; given man a wonderful place to live; supplied man with an abundance of blessings, yet man does not glorify Him as God or thank Him. Such ingratitude must rip apart the heart of God. Despite the knowledge of God conveyed to them through creation, mankind failed to act on it.
Ingratitude is one of the worst sins there is. You might recall that the Lord Jesus healed ten lepers, but only one returned to thank Him. Only ten percent were thankful, and I believe a smaller percent are thankful today!
The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Therefore, 1 Corinthians 10:31 instructs—
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
The thankful heart is a humble heart! And the humble and thankful GLORIFY GOD, that is they praise, extol, magnify, and honor Him as God. Surely pride and unthankfulness were the root causes of the fall of both Satan as well as Adam and Eve.
Notice the three devastating results of UNTHANKFULNESS:
These three devastating results of UNTHANKFULNESS describe Man’s depraved nature—the unregenerate mind and heart. Depraved man neither thinks nor speaks honorably of God; nor does he ascribe those perfections to Him, which belonged to Him; he does not adhere to Him as the one and only God, nor honor Him as the Creator of all things, and as the Sovereign Ruler of the universe; he does not glorify Him by the internal exercise of fear of Him, love to Him, or trust in Him, nor by any external worship suitable to His nature. The depraved man neither glorifies nor thanks God!
The depraved man believes himself to be wise. This is the greatest wretchedness of man, not only not to feel his disorder, but to extract a matter of pride from what ought to be his shame. What depraved man esteems wisdom is truly folly. Jeremiah 17:9 diagnoses man’s dilemma—
The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?
ALTHOUGH THEY CLAIMED TO BE WISE, THEY BECAME FOOLS. PHILOSOPHY stems from the Greek term for WISE. PHILOSOPHY means the “love of wisdom..” By the term WISE, the Apostle points to the philosophers of his day as well as all the way back to the Tower of Babel, when human philosophy began with God-denying, unthankful people, who rebelled against the LORD and suppressed His truth. Listen to their folly—
Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 11:4).
They were moved with pride and ambition, preferring their own glory to God’s. Thinking themselves greater and wiser than God, they thought they could reach to the heavens. The builders of Babel were captivated through hollow and deceptive philosophy. Paul warns in Colossians 2:8—
See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.
Human claim and actual fact have nothing in common. We need to seek wisdom from above, not folly from below.
Those who esteemed themselves wise BECAME UTTER FOOLS. The Greek term is moraino (moraino), from which we get our English MORON, that is one who is mentally deficient.
The foolishness of the darkened mind arises from the wickedness of the heart, and the imaginations thereof, which are evil.
The pride of the fallen nature is carnality and weakness of reasoning that produces the whole system of vain philosophy, which turns either to atheism (the denial of God) or polytheism (the worshiping of many gods). In either case, THE TRUTH OF GOD IS EXCHANGED FOR THE LIE.
Paul has traced the steps of the depraved man. First, THERE WAS INDIFFERENCE TO GOD. Knowing Him, they neither praised him for His perfections nor thanked Him for His goodness.
Second, MAN’S THINKING BECAME FUTILE. For nothing can be more ridiculous than the religious speculation of irreligious men. Those who refuse to glorify Him as God are the authors of hollow theories like evolution or the makers of golden calves.
Third, THEY TOTALLY FORGOT GOD. Their senseless heart is darkened. The whole inner being, deprived of a knowledge of truth and holiness and right, became wholly corrupted.
This led to the state of intellectual pride coexisting with spiritual and moral folly. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools.
The testimony of Scripture is that man is on a downward path in sin. Evolution teaches that man is on his way up, but this is not in accordance with the Bible nor observation and experience. No people have ever lived up to the light that they have had. Although they had a knowledge of God, they moved away from Him. Right now the world is probably farther from God than at any time in its history. There are more heathen living on earth at this moment than lived in all the centuries combined.
Characteristic of unregenerate man is his downward path away from God that corresponds with his too high valuation of his own knowledge. Although pretending to be wise by the world’s standards, the heathen are actually fools concerning the truth.
Those who ignore God and turn away from Him are not really wise at all but are fools—ruled by self-deception! For Proverbs 14:12 says —
There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.
Jesus contrasts the wise man who builds his house and its foundation on the rock with the foolish man who builds his house on the sand. Certainly, building on the sand seems right to the foolish man, but when the rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, it fell with a great crash. Of course, the sand symbolizes the hollow and deceptive philosophy of this world. The Rock is Jesus and the foundation is His words.
The final step in man’s downward path from God is IDOLATRY. Verse 23—
. . . and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.
Man is a religious being, and if he refuses to let God have the place of preeminence that is rightfully His, then he will put something or someone in God’s place.
IDOLATRY grew out of man’s insistent need to recognize some power in the universe greater than himself, coupled with the refusal to give God the place of supremacy. Man had to make a substitution.
Man did not begin in idolatry. Primitive man was monotheistic. Idolatry started at Babel, ancient Babylon. The founder of Babel was Nimrod and his wife, Semiramis, led mankind into idolatry. From there it spread around the world, entrenching itself in most pagan religions and is with us to this day. The end times religion will be MYSTERY BABYLON.
Idols are unreal and unprofitable, and their worship can only lead to futility and further estrangement from the true and living God. Appropriate is Daniel’s rebuke of Belshazzar, Babylonian’s last king, recorded in Daniel 5:23—
Instead, you have set yourself up against the Lord of heaven. You had the goblets from his temple brought to you, and you and your nobles, your wives and your concubines drank wine from them. You praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or understand. But you did not honor the God who holds in his hand your life and all your ways.
The Bible shows that once the idol is conceived by man, it is not long before man is deceived by the idol. Satanic forces entrench themselves in all idolatrous systems of worship according to passages like Psalm 106:35—
They worshiped their idols, which became a snare to them. They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to demons.
Idolatrous worship prevails in all parts of the world to this day. Education, culture and advancement do little to free men from idolatry since the problem is basically spiritual since its deepest root is Satan.
In India, all living things are looked upon as scared. Snakes and crocodiles, monkeys and cows are all worship in varying degrees. To kill a cow is as bad as murder, and to eat its flesh is an act of cannibalism. India cannot feed its own starving millions, yet two hundred million head of cattle are allowed to wander far and wide competing with man for food and damaging standing crops. Not even the government of India can liberate the nation from the cow’s divinity, its efforts to do so being met with stubborn opposition from the deluded people.
It was the same in the days of the New Testament. The Greeks were the great intellectuals of antiquity, yet their Roman conquerors sarcastically remarked, “It was easier to find a god than a man” in Athens!
What Romans 1:23 states is directly opposite to what is taught in the theory of evolution. Proponents of this theory teach that man started his worship at the bottom and worked up—first he worshiped nature, then he worship may gods and then he worshiped one God.
However, the Bible states—and archaeology confirms—that man first worshiped God, and then he degenerated to worshiping many gods and nature. After rejecting God, man first worshiped images of man, then birds, then beasts, and finally reptiles.
The abandonment of God in favor of inferior objects of worship is traced in a descending scale. MORTAL MAN is the first substitution. The Creator is forsaken in preference for the creature. Scripture shows us the deification of man in the case of Nebuchadnezzar. The colossal statute that appeared in the king’s dream was interpreted by Daniel as pointing to the king himself as far as the head of gold was concerned. Wasting no time Nebuchadnezzar erected an immense statute of gold and compelled his subjects to prostrate themselves before it.
In Paul’s day, the cult of Caesar had spread throughout the Empire. Before long, Caesar and Christ would be competing for the homage of society. In modern times, the western world has outgrown crass idolatry, but evolution and humanism have subtly injected the worship of man without the trappings of graven images. God is quietly ruled out and man is placed on the throne.
When man gives a wrong place to man, God is always dragged down in man’s thinking. It’s the SEESAW PRINCIPLE. If one end is up, the other end must be down. It is very important theologically to apply the seesaw principle. If you exalt man in any way, God is thereby lowered. But if you exalt God as He should be exalted, man thereby takes his true position of utter nothingness, and only then can he find his real exaltation, for it will come to him through the grace of God in Christ. Man reaches the heights by taking the proper place of lowliness. That’s the divine principle Jesus taught in Luke 18:14—
For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.
The next step down the scale is the worship of BIRDS AND ANIMALS AND REPTILES. What an insult to God! At least man is created in the image and likeness of God, but birds, animals and reptiles slander God.
But such has been the history of the human race. Beginning with the worship of the true and living God, mankind gradually descended to idolatry and good luck charms. The development has not been upward but downward. Paganism has no saving power in itself.
God delivered Israel from Egyptian bondage, but the redeemed Israelites neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him. Instead with futile thinking and darkened hearts, they made a golden calf and bowed down to this molten image at Mt. Sinai. Psalm 106:20 laments—
They exchanged their Glory for an image of a bull, which eats grass.
To the Psalmist, God is the glory of Israel. They made the golden calf their glory! Why? Stephen gives the reason in Acts 7:39-40—
But our fathers refused to obey him. Instead, they rejected him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt. They told Aaron, `Make us gods who will go before us.
The ultimate purpose behind idolatry is man’s sinful desire to do whatever he wants to do instead of doing what God wants him to do. Like Satan, man wants to exalt himself to a throne above God’s.
Once in the Promised Land, the Israelites repeated this idolatrous offense by setting up golden calves at Dan and Bethel. This led to worshiping the idols of the Canaanites and Egyptians as well. God did not and could not condone idolatry in the people He had chosen. His judgment fell heavily when there was not repentance, even to the point of desolation and deportation from the land He had given Israel.
The prophetic Scriptures predict that at the middle of the Tribulation Period, the beast and his image will be worshiped. The setting up and worshiping of image of the Beast will be the ultimate fulfillment of Satan’s purpose when he told Eve, “You will be like God.” The song will be “Glory to man in the highest!” With this idolatrous act, God will unleash the fury of His wrath from heaven.
The Scriptures link FOOLISH and SIN as well as WISDOM and RIGHTEOUSNESS. Hence, from IDOLATRY to IMMORALITY is just one short step.
The last nine verses of the First Chapter of Romans are among the most terrible in the Bible. This is the description of mankind abandoned by God and the scene is a frightful one. Verse 24 —
Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.
THEREFORE indicates that what is now revealed is God’s response to the perverseness of mankind. Man’s degeneration is measured by his perversion of sex.
The world has not improved since the day when God first GAVE THEM OVER IN SINFUL DESIRES OF THEIR HEARTS TO SEXUAL IMPURITY. The Reformation under Luther and Calvin, the Great Awakening under the Wesleys and Whitefield brought no lasting change. Our televisions, radios, newspapers and magazines are filled with illicit sex and sex perversion, which is openly justified and even promoted by the communications media.
Though spiritual revivals occur, the unregenerate heart always reverts to paganism and immorality, so that today America is widely known for its sex-madness. Even worse is Europe—its morality has sunk so low it wonders why Americans make a fuss about sex scandals.
The first note of “the Song of Doom” is heard. The symphony of divine judgment is played: GOD GAVE THEM OVER . . . GOD GAVE THEM OVER . . . HE GAVE THEM OVER. There is a sense of finality to it!
Yet, there’s a sound of mercy in these notes also. God allows unregenerate men to go their own way in order that they might learn to hate the futility of a life turned away from the truth of God.
THE PARABLE OF THE PRODIGAL SON illustrates the idea of mercy behind GOD GAVE THEM OVER. In this Parable, the father gave his younger son his inheritance and left him go his own way. The son squandered his wealth in wild living in a far country. And to add to the calamity of his destitution, there came a severe famine. When the wayward son had nothing to eat, he came to his senses.
The father gave over the Prodigal Son to wild living, it was an act of God’s judgment and mercy—He smites in order to heal. The prophecy of Isaiah 19:22 illustrates this principle—
The LORD will strike Egypt with a plague; he will strike them and heal them. They will turn to the LORD, and he will respond to their pleas and heal them.
When God gives man over to his own depravity, it reveals His wrath as well as His mercy. He is still concerned with man and dealing with him even though they acknowledge no higher criteria than own wayward desires. Depraved mankind acts like the beasts when God gives them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.
The Creator has allowed man to plunge into the abyss of immorality and vice because they chose to worship the creature rather than the Creator. So the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness.
If man is his own god, then he can do whatever he pleases and fulfill his desires without fear of judgment. The result of self-deification is self-indulgence, which produces a wretched life instead of abundant living.
When a person’s attention turns away from God, it becomes focused on the desire of his body, and he will do whatever he can to satisfy those desires.
Like the Prodigal Son, depraved man is allowed to be swept along by his own sinful desires until he discovers himself destitute among the pigs instead of enjoying the blessings of the Father. A few will come their senses, most will not because of willful blindness!
The blindest infidelity accompanies the most insufferable conceit. America’s reaction to the White House affair is a barometer of the moral climate of our nation.
Has God removed His restraining hand from our nation? Is He giving America over in the sinful desires of our hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading the bodies with one another? Is America fast moving away from God?
190 million Americans do not attend Church! Fewer Americans are attending worship services to glorify the Creator as God, and give Him thanks!
If America persists on the downward path of godlessness and wickedness, the nation will reap the terrible harvest described in today’s passage. Galatians 6:7 warns—
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.
This section of Romans shows how the sowing and reaping principle is carried out. God will not violate man’s free will. God allows people to go the way they chose to go. When God gives a person or a nation over to sinful desires, chaos and havoc is reaped. I cannot think of anything worse than to be abandoned by God.
Never forget Christ’s cry on the Cross—”My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Hell is a place of absolute abandonment by God. Thank the LORD that Jesus died for your sins so you would not have to experience it!
Verse 25 occurs when thinking is futile and darkened hearts are foolish—
They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is for ever praised. Amen.
The foolish SWAPPED THE TRUTH OF GOD FOR THE LIE. LIE denotes a conscious and intentional falsehood.
The original text literally reads “THE LIE.” Paul is not just talking about A LIE, but one that is SPECIFIC. First, THE LIE claims that there is something of good in man, but Paul is building a case to the contrary, which reaches its climax with Romans 3:10-12—
As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no-one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”
That’s what Jesus said to the Rich Young Ruler in Luke 18:19—
“Why do you call me good?” . . . “No one is good—except God alone.”
People actually think they are good enough to go to heaven! What a lie!
Second, THE LIE claims that man is his own god, and he should worship and serve himself and not the Creator. The theory of evolution advances the lie—by eliminating the Creator, leaving man to elevate himself as god. It is the lie, Satan used in the Garden to lead Eve to sin: “YOU WILL BE LIKE GOD.”
Satan has always wanted the worship that belongs only to God. This desire is manifested in his temptation of Jesus. Matthew 4:8-10—
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: `Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'”
Whenever man worships an idol, he worships Satan! Behind each and every idol are demons. But God says NO!—Worship and serve Me alone!
The Ten Commandments (from the first to the last) call for man to order his life according to God’s ways: “You shall have no other gods before me” and “you shall not covet . . .” Colossians 3:15 defines greed, which is covetousness as idolatry.
The covetous man, and the idolater, worship the same gold and silver. The covetous man lays up his money, makes no use of it, as if it was something sacred; he looks at it, and adores it, and puts his trust and confidence in it, and his heart is so much set upon it, that he neglects the worship of the true God; and indeed Jesus preached in Matthew 6:24—
No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.
Any idol stems from THE LIE. In the imagination of the worshiper an idol promises much; however, it provides nothing!
Paul concludes this section with an AMEN. AMEN simply means TRULY—it is an expression of absolute trust and confidence in what has been said. It is a word of solemn affirmation and enthusiastic approval.