Paul, in verses 16-17, has begun to declare the Gospel which defines and motivates his mission. It is the very “power of God”; it is universal, for Jew or Greek (i.e., non-Jewish pagans), and it manifests the righteousness and power of God given as a gift to man, who live by faith.
But there can be no need for the Good News until we come to terms with the Bad News: That man has rejected God, and as a consequence, has turned from righteousness to unrighteousness, with the moral depravity and divine judgement which are the inevitable and certain consequences:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world,fn in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor 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 exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
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.
Paul begins here with a statement of natural law: that man, by his reason, is capable of knowing God through the evidence of creation. The failure to know God is not one of insufficient knowledge or proof; it is rather a moral choice. Man refuses to acknowledge and submit to God because he, in spiritual darkness because of sin, has corrupted his reason, and now creates gods in his own image or in the image of the lesser creatures of creation.
For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
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. They were 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. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
Paul begins his depiction of man’s descent into moral depravity by his description of the impact on the most fundamental of human behaviors, reproduction and the relationship between men and women. But lest we think that sexual deviancy is the prime manifestation of the unrighteous man, he promptly lists virtually every vice of man. Furthermore, somewhat surprisingly, Paul points to the natural law knowledge of fallen man: they understand that such behavior merits God’s punishment, yet act in evil ways and encourage others to do so.
Wrath (Greek:orge): anger, the natural disposition, temper, character; movement or agitation of the soul, impulse, desire, any violent emotion, but esp. anger; wrath, indignation; anger exhibited in punishment, hence used for punishment itself; punishments inflicted by magistrates
Suppress (Greek: katecho): to hold back, detain, retain from going away; to restrain, hinder (the course or progress of)that which hinders, e.g., of Antichrist from making his appearance; to check a ship’s headway i.e. to hold or head the ship; to hold fast, keep secure, keep firm possession of; to get possession of, take, to possess
Futile (Greek: mataioo): to render (passively, become) foolish, i.e. (morally) wicked or idolatrous, to become vain
Darkened (Greek: skotizo): to obscure; to cover with darkness, to darken; to be covered with darkness, be darkened; of heavenly bodies as deprived of light; metaphorically, of the eyes, of the understanding, of the mind
lust (Greek: epithymia): desire, craving, longing, desire for what is forbidden, lust
Gave them up (Greek: paradidomi):
- to give into the hands (of another)
- to give over into one’s power or use: to deliver to one something to keep, use, to take care of, or manage; to deliver up one to custody; to be judged, condemned, punished, scourged, tormented, put to death; to deliver up treacherously, by betrayal; to cause one to be taken, to deliver one to be taught, moulded
- to commit, to commend
- to deliver verbally: commands, rites, to deliver by narrating, to report
- to permit, allow: when the fruit will allow, that is when its ripeness permits; gives itself up, presents itself
- God has made known to man His nature, apart from divine revelation, through the evidence of creation
- Man has made a moral decision to reject God and worship himself and the things of creation
- The consequence of this choice is all manner of moral depravity, and ultimately the judgement and condemnation of God
- That man in his nature understands the evil nature and consequences of his behavior, yet persists in it and encourages others to do so as well