God Gave Them Up:
Hope In The Gospel

In a Brief  Survey of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans
Based on sermons preached in PCC Worship Services, July 2003 to Sep 2005
Part 6c of 83


“24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: 25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. 

26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: 27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.

28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; 29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, 30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 Without understanding, covenant-breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:  32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them” (Romans 1:24-32).

We saw in the previous two instalments of this 6th tranche of articles that sin progresses down a slippery slope and that sin is also an instrument of God to punish those who remain in sin. In a way judgment has begun in this life for the wicked for God would use the law of sin to bring them into deeper sin for their own destruction.

In this third and final instalment, we must consider how…

3. There is Hope in the 
Gospel of Christ

Think of the analogy of the slippery drain once again. But now extend the drain wide enough for the whole world to slide down in it. A man steps into it and starts sliding down. This man is Adam. And with him the whole world is sliding down the drain. Now, suppose someone decides that he does not want to slide any more. Can he stop himself? No, he must go down. It is the law of nature. He cries out to the world for help, but can anyone help him? No, for the whole world is sliding down.

How could that man ever be delivered out of his downward slide? How could he be rescued? How could he be made to go upwards instead of downward? It will take a miraculous intervention! God must intervene if anyone is to stop his downward slide and start to move up instead.

And so it is with reality. The whole world is,—in the hand of God,—sliding down in sin. No one, nothing in the world can stop the downward slide. Nothing in the world can save the world.

Can the world save itself by making itself more civilised? No, history has shown that as civilisation progresses, sin does not stop its progress. Instead it simply changes form and in many cases becomes even more potent.

Can the world save itself by education? No, the world hates the truth and loves the lie,—especially so in the very areas of knowledge that touches their salvation. 

Can the world save itself by technology and medical advances? No, technology and medicine can only heal the body but not the soul. In fact, up till today, technology and medicine is quite helpless when it comes to arresting some of the problems brought about by the vilest sins, such as AIDS. AIDS is the grim reminder of the just recompense referred to in verse 27. Till today there is no cure for it. Indeed, even if a cure is found, AIDS will never be eradicated as long as the world is on its downward slide in sin.

Can the world save itself by the religions of the world? No, the religions of the world are idolatry. Idolatry is the first step of the downward slide. To try to save the world by the religions of the world, is like coating the man sliding down the drain with oil.

What then can be done to save anyone from the downward slide?

The only way that anyone can be rescued from the downward slide is by a miraculous intervention. A special assertion of God’s power is needed.

This power is exerted in the preaching of the Gospel. It is the power of the Gospel that can lift man up. This is why the apostle Paul is not ashamed of the Gospel. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth…” (Rom 1:16), he says. “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God” (1Cor 1:18).

Therefore there is hope! There is hope for the sinner sliding down the slippery slope of sin. That is why I am not ashamed of the Gospel!

Conclusion

But what do we say to these things? Let me conclude by a short address to three classes of readers amongst us.

First, I would address you if you profess faith in the Lord. I would remind you that the world is sliding down the slippery road of sin.

Look around you. If you look at everything with biblical eyes, you will see that the world is feeding itself in its downward slide.

·       Think of all the advertisements on the buses. What are the pictures being used to attract attention? Flowers, animals and mountains? Think again.

·       Think of the magazines and books that are best sellers. What is it that makes them best-sellers?

·       Think of the kind of shows on the TV, cinemas or internet that are known as block-busters. What is it that makes them top the charts? Good morals and eternal truths? Think again.

The world feeds on the lust of man, and it is going down, down and down. What is your relationship to the world? What are you doing to protect your children and to prepare them to face the world? Are you ensuring that they are worldly enough to survive in the world, or are you ensuring that they are wise enough to be in the world but not of the world? What are you doing to make sure that they remain in Christ?

Secondly, I would address you if you are a covenant child. Yes, I do hope and pray that some of our covenant children will pick this article up to read. If you are reading this as a young covenant child, I want to tell you how thrilled I am that you are doing so. There is great hope for you and for the church if you are doing so.

But now, let me ask:  What will happen if you step on a drain that is running down the slope of a hill? Yes, you will slide down very fast, and no one can help you.

I know what it is like because when I was a little boy,—perhaps a little younger than some of you,—I stepped into one such drain. Up till today I have a scar on my head to remind me of that experience.

But there is a drain that is much, much more dangerous. It is the drain of sin. If you step into it, you will slide down, down and down. So my child, do not trifle with sin. Do not think it is OK to behave like your unbelieving friends or neighbours.

·     Do you profane the Sabbath by running around rowdily in church?

·     Are you rude to your parents?

·     Do you fight with your brothers or sisters?

·     Do you take other people’s things without permission?

·     Do you tell lies?

·     Do you demand your way?

All these are sinful behaviour. The fact that other children do these things does not make them less sinful. And little sins will lead to bigger sins. If you do not repent of your sin, you will slide down, down and down.

Do not continue in sin. But make sure you listen when the Gospel is preached; and make sure you learn your catechism lessons well. Only the power of the Gospel can save you. Only the Lord Jesus Christ can rescue you from the downward slide.

Finally, I would address you if you are reading this article for some reason but know that you are still unconverted. I want you to realise that as long as you remain in unbelief, you are holding down the truth in unrighteousness.

You know deep in your heart that God exists, and that He is holy and powerful. You know in your heart of hearts that you must serve Him and worship Him. But you are holding down the truth. And you know from this passage the terrible consequence of holding down the truth.

I do not know if you worship idols. But I know that if you do not worship idols, you worship yourself. The esteemed Edwardsean scholar, Dr Gerstner, calls that I-dolatry. That’s right! So long as you do not worship the living and true God, you are idolatrous or I-dolatrous. Then the terrible wrath of God will be revealed against you. God will drag you down with your own lusts. You will fall from sin to sin until your soul meets its Creator. You cannot help yourself. Left to yourself you will slide down the slippery slope of sin. You will fall headlong into the bottomless pit of eternal damnation.  The fact that you enjoy the slide down does not make it right or safe. It is a dangerous ride that ends in infinite sorrow and pain.

But thank God there is hope. The power of the Gospel can save you. Cease not to seek Christ through hearing the Gospel. Come! Confess and repent of your sin. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and cry out to Him for salvation. Only Christ Jesus can save you from the destruction you are bringing upon yourself by your sin. Amen.

─ JJ Lim