The sinister nature of sin isn’t so much the wrong we have done; no, the great danger is what we’ve become. The apostle Paul warns us of this in Romans 1:18-32. He begins with a warning about the wrath of God. The wrath of God is a forgotten subject for many people. They only think of God’s mercy, love, and grace; but as truly as God is love, God is also holy.
“Therefore God also gave them up.” (Romans 1:24) What does Paul mean “God…gave them up”?
First of all, he does not mean that God quits. God is not a quitter. God never stops loving and caring. His mercies are new every morning. What this statement means is there comes a point where if we insist on resisting God’s ways and doing our own thing that God will allow us to do it. The greatest power God has given us is the power of choice. God permits us to choose even when we are choosing the wrong thing. He warns us of the consequences but permits us to do bad things. Why does God allow this? Because God did not create us as automated machines and He loves us too much to destroy us. The word “temptation” comes from the words “to stretch.” That is what happens each time we are tempted to do wrong. There is a stretching inside us as we struggle with right and wrong. God is pulling us to do right and the devil is pulling us to do wrong. There comes a point where we have to make a decision, and the decision is ours to make. If we choose to do evil God releases us to do the evil we have chosen. Otherwise “the stretch” would destroy us.
I saw this illustrated with a plastic cup. You can begin pulling on both sides of the cup and the cup reaches a point of tension where unless you release one side, the pressure becomes so great that it rips the cup apart leaving it totally useless. This is a picture of what sin does do us. God releases us to keep from destroying us. God believes we will learn from our mistake and return to Him.
But look at what happened when God released these people; they fell into a lower level of degradation, “in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies.” They sank into a deeper level of immorality. The second time God gave them up was “to vile passions” and they sank from immorality to homosexuality. “For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful.” (Romans 1:26-27) The third time God gave them up was, “God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting,” and he gives a long list of those evil things. (Romans 1:28) They have now sunk to the level of a reprobate mind where good things are perceived as being bad and bad things are mistaken for being good.
When God “gives up” or God “gives over” it doesn’t mean that the sinner won. No, the sinner lost and fell into a deeper level of condemnation. We must understand life is a journey. We are going somewhere and our journey will ultimately end in heaven or in hell. We are either becoming more like God or we are becoming more like the devil. God never stops loving us but God’s love cannot redeem those who reject it.
What a rebuke for those who flaunt their sin. The Bible warns us, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption.” (Galatians 6:7-8)