Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. – Romans 1:24-25 ESV
This whole section of Romans 1 has to do with the truth versus the lie. In these verses, Paul says that man has “exchanged the truth of God for a lie”, or literally, “the lie”. To understand this passage we have to define what Paul had in mind with these two terms. What is the truth of God? What is it that man, in his unrighteousness, has suppressed (vs 18)? God has revealed His eternal power and divine nature to man through His creation. So they are without excuse. Nature virtually screams the reality or truth regarding the existence of God. The very fact that men have ended up worshiping the creation rather than the creator simply shows that man recognizes some more powerful source outside of himself, but has chosen to exchange “the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things” (Romans 1:23 ESV). The truth to which Paul is referring in chapter one is the reality of God’s existence. “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them” (Romans 1:19 ESV). Because man has rejected the truth regarding the existence of God, it is virtually impossible for him to accept the need for a Savior sent from God for his salvation. Ignorance or disbelief in God’s existence ultimately leads to a refusal to accept any kind of divine standard for moral conduct. Morality becomes highly subjective and relativistic. Each man ends up doing what is right in his own eyes. As a result, they begin to believe “the lie”, either rejecting that God exists at all or replacing the truth about God for something or someone else. Rather than honoring Him as God and giving Him thanks for all that He has done for them, they turn their attention elsewhere, relying on their own wisdom to explain their existence and to determine their conduct.
So God gives them up. That sounds like such a harsh statement. It comes across as some form of divine abandonment. The Greek word is paradidōmi and it means “to give into the hands (of another)” or “to give over into (one’s) power or use”. In a way, this simply means that God releases them to pursue and believe “the lie”. He allows men to rely on their own wisdom and darkened hearts. His wrath is less active in this sense, than passive. He allows them to reap what they sow. Paul had this idea in mind when he wrote to the believers in Galatia. “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life” (Galatians 6:7-8 ESV). Three times in this section of Romans 1, Paul uses the phrase, “God gave them up”. In these two verses, God gave them up to impurity. The rejection of the truth regarding God’s existence will ultimately lead to a false conclusion that man is the ultimate arbiter of his own fate. It is the wisdom of man, apart from God, that leads to things like genocide, infanticide, abortion, and virtually all forms of sexual sin and perversion. Highly intelligent people can commit and justify highly immoral acts. Humanism, as a philosophy of life, is destructive. It can be define as “
Man ends up worshiping and idolizing man. But at the end of the day, all men are inherently selfish and self-centered. Even our best attempts at living altruistic lives end up being self-serving. When you make man the center of your world, it is difficult, if not impossible, to keep from making that world revolve around yourself and your individual wants and desires. You end up doing what is right in your own eyes, and find yourself serving the creature rather than the creator. Not only do you dishonor God, but you eventually dishonor your own body, doing with it things that God never intended or approved, fulfilling the lusts of your own heart. God releases you to reap what you sow. He allows you to experience the negative outcomes of your own myopic and narcissistic lifestyle choices.
We see the reality of these verse all around us. Highly education and intelligent men and women living God-less lives in which they have made themselves the sole focus of their worship and attention. Mankind has made a habit out of rejecting the one true God and coming up with their own version of the truth. They exchange the truth about God for the lie. And the lie always leads do destruction. Paul is going to outline some serious consequences of living according to the lie. When we read the following verses we tend to focus on one particular sin, but Paul has a much broader view in mind when it comes to man’s belief in the lie. He describes those who reject the truth of God and accept the lie as “filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless” (Romans 1:29-31 ESV). Sound familiar? It should. That is the world in which we live. Paul says, “since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God have them up to a debased mind to do what out not to be done” (Romans 1:28 ESV). And this is what they reaped. A life lived without God is not a pretty picture. Buying into the lie results in some serious consequences. Any man, left to himself, allowed by God to pursue his own way, will ultimately live a life marked by godlessness and unrighteousness.