Paul spends three chapters in the book of Romans to convince his readers that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). To get to this conclusion, he begins at Romans 1:18 to speak of the way humans suppress the truth about God.
There is a great deal to discuss in these verses but note a few of these.
1) Paul describes the human race as spiralling further and further away from God rather than being a morally maturing breed. Note verse 22, the description of replacing worship of an immortal God for images: first images that look like mortal humans (who at least were made in the image of God), then of birds and of animals and then of reptiles – is it a coincidence that this verse begins with the image of God and ends with the image of the deceiver of Genesis 3? People are not getting better and better. No achievement or progression of mankind can get us closer to God or being more godlike. When we get to Romans 3, we will discuss the doctrine of ‘total depravity.’ Humanity is not ‘basically good with traces of evil’ – rather, humanity is blind to the truth about God and is blissfully unaware of its utter rebelliousness. NB Ephesians 2:1-3!
2) Note that God is not active in producing sin in us. Rather, he ‘gave [us] over in [our] sinful desires of [our] heart. ‘God gave them over’ is repeated in verses 24, 26, and 28 – our desires, our passions and our minds are all warped in a direction away from the truth.
3) There is a dark description of the condition of mankind in these verses. A description that needs to be taken seriously. But note the broad spectrum of sin covered in this passage: wrong worship of God, wrong use of our bodies, wrong approach to sex, and wrong approach to human relationships. I particularly take note at ‘they disobey their parents.’ It may sound humerous among so many ‘worse’ activities or thoughts, but this is to illustrate how profoundly horrible and basic our sin is. Remember the 5th commandment? Paul is not describing ‘those people out there’ but our own hearts – for all who are yet to be introduced to the Saviour!
I’ll leave you with a quote from a blog that I think is really helpful in relation to this weeks passage and a link to the much longer blog…
THE REALITY OF SIN AND DARKENING OF THE HUMAN MIND
Psalm 14 puts it succinctly:
The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” (Ps 14:1)
The one who removes God from consideration, who is unresponsive to God, is a fool. In the words of John Woodhouse:
People who do not take God seriously find it very difficult to see the seriousness of not taking God seriously. To refuse to take God seriously is the ultimate stupidity but once you have committed it, the inevitable effect is to blind you to its idiocy. It does not seem at all stupid not to take God seriously, if you don’t… Our sinfulness gets in the way of seeing our sinfulness.
A similar point is made in Romans 1, where the downward spiral of sin begins with a suppression of the truth (perhaps the suppression of the truth by the first man and woman in the Garden) but descends very quickly into the foolishness David was speaking about in Psalm 14:
For although they knew God, they did not honour him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise they became fools… And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. (Rom 1:21–22, 28)
Ultimately it is sin itself which is the root cause of the contemporary abandonment of sin.
Read more of this blog here, particularly the points made toward the end of it…