God Gave Them Up:
The  Instrument Of Wrath

In a Brief  Survey of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans
Base on sermons preached in PCC Worship Services, July 2003 to Sep 2005
Part 6b 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 previously how sin progresses down a slippery slope. Those who hold down the truth in unrighteousness and refuse to acknowledge God will descend into idolatry and then into all sorts of wickedness, including homosexuality. The downward slide is relentless because God has ordained it to be so. The sinner is like a man sliding down a mountain on a slippery algae coated drain.

In this second instalment, we must consider how this downward slide actually serves God’s judicial purpose, for consider how…

2. Sin is the Instrument 
of God’s Wrath

Think the analogy of the man sliding down the drain again. What is it that drags him down? Is it not gravity? Does this mean that God is not in control? No, gravity is an instrument of God. The law of gravity is a law of nature ordained by God. And God generally works within the framework of this law.

Or we may say: It is God pulling down the man by means of gravity. God is not standing aside, unconcerned and having no control over the downward slide of the man. He is,—as it were,—sovereignly pulling the man down.

Now, consider the world sliding down the slippery drain of sin. Is God standing by unconcerned? Is He standing by helpless to do anything? No, no; He is in absolute control.

Consider how the apostle puts it:

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness…” (Rom 1:18).

Those who hold down the truth are being drag down by the wrath of God revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. It is God who, in his wrath, drags them down to idolatry (v. 21-23).

And not only so, but Paul tells us that it is God who drags them down from idolatry to uncleanness, to vile affections, to a reprobate mind.

·       “Wherefore God gave them up to uncleanness…” (v. 24).

·       “For this cause God gave them up to vile affections…” (v. 26).

·       “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind…” (v. 28)

The word rendered ‘gave up’ (paradivdwmi) must not be construed to mean ‘let go.’ It is the same word that is translated ‘delivered’ elsewhere. For examples, the Lord warned his disciples: “Beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils…” (Mt 10:17). The Lord is telling his disciples that they would be handed over to the councils. You don’t ‘let go’ to the councils.

Likewise, He said “All things are delivered unto me of my Father…” (Mt 11:27). He is saying that God handed all things to him, God did not simply let go, He gave over all things to His son.

And in Matthew 27:26, we are told that when Pilate “had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.” He did not let the Lord go. Similarly, In the book of Acts, the word is used many times, to speak about being delivered into prison. You don’t let go a person into prison. You hand him over or push him into prison.

God does not simply ‘let go.’ There is a heretical idea about God known as Deism, which teaches that God simply ‘let go.’ But no, in Paul’s mind, God is sovereign. He ‘gives up’ the sinners, he ‘delivers them over’, he hands them over. He gives them over to the lust of their flesh. Or to use the picture of the drain: He pushes them down, and He pulls them down!

Ultimately, just as it is God who pulls down the man sliding on the drain, so it is God who pulls down the world that is sliding down in sin.

Does that make God the author of sin? No! Just as God uses the law of gravity in the case of the man sliding down the drain, so He makes use of the law of sin in the case of the world sliding down in sin. What is the law of sin? It is law that sinful man will always choose to satisfy the wicked desires of their sinful hearts.

There is nothing wrong with the fact that the heart desires. It is the nature of the heart to desire. It is made to desire. But the heart was originally made to desire after God. It is made to desire God’s glory and enjoyment of God. But as soon as man holds down the truth and turn away from God, his heart is darkened. And his desires become lusts. “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies,” says our Lord (Mt 15:19).

The darken heart begins to lust after and serve the creature more than the Creator (v. 25). This does not mean that he serve the Creator a little, and serve the creature more. No, it means he serve the creature instead of the Creator. He begins to lust after and serve idols. He begins to lust after the praise of man. He begins to lust after wealth and position. He begins to serve mammon. He begins to lust after the pleasures of the flesh. The lust of the eyes and the pride of life begin to fill his heart. There is no place for God in his heart anymore.

In revealing His wrath, and executing His wrath, God simply work on these lusts. He does not simply let the sinners go, He drags them down with their own lusts. James says: “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed” (Jas 1:14). God is not the author of sin, but He is executing His justice and wrath—through the lust of the sinner.

The sinner bows to a block of wood and stone and say, ‘thou art my god.’ So God says,

·       Alright, I will see to it that you receive the just recompense that your error deserves [v. 27].

·       I will see to it that you be dragged down below the creatures you worship.

·       I will see to it that you will be worse off than the blocks of wood and stone.

·       I will see to your destruction according as you lusts after it.

God is perfectly just and righteous in his dealing with sinners, even in this world.

But is there no hope? Oh yes, there is! There is hope. But we will have to leave that to our next instalment.….

─ JJ Lim

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