24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them.
25 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
26 For this reason God gave them over to dishonorable passions; for their females exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural,
27 and in the same way also the males abandoned the natural function of the female and burned in their desire toward one another, males with males committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.
28 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them over to an unfit mind, to do those things which are not proper,
29 having been filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips,
30 slanderers, haters of God, violent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents,
31 without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful;
32 and although they know the righteous requirement of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.
In the days of King Ahaz, the Lord had promised that judgment was going to come upon Judah at the hands of the Assyrian army. Judah had done wickedly before God, even committing the same abominations that Sodom had been guilty of. So God was going to turn them over to their enemies. But though Judah was told through the prophet Isaiah, their hearts were so hard they could not hear the warning, and so turn from their sin and be saved.
They were so without reason that they came to the prophet of God, and instead of saying, “Inquire of Yahweh for us,” they said, “Inquire of the mediums and the spiritists who whisper and mutter.” Isaiah 8:19-20 says, “Should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living? To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn.” They will clamor in the dark, for they suppress the truth in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18).
The world hates the idea that there is a God who has clearly spoken. They don’t want a God who speaks clearly. They want a god like Ahaz and Judah wanted—a god who whispers and mutters—and too many preachers are willing to appease them. The last two Southern Baptist Convention presidents, preaching on this very section of Romans, said that God whispers about sexual sin (of course, one president was plagiarizing the other, but I digress).
Is that the impression you got as I read from Romans 1? God doesn’t whisper about anything! He has spoken loud and clear about sin and the consequences of sin. When we read Romans 1:24-32, we are reading about how a perversion of the truth leads to the perversion of life. We must be clear about this, so that we will clearly see the need for the gospel of Jesus Christ to the nations, our theme for the book of Romans. As we heard from Romans 1:16, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to all who believe.”
Let’s consider once again verses 24-25, where God gave them over to impurity; then we’ll move on to verses 26-27 where we read that God gave them over to dishonorable passions; and then verses 28-32 where God gave them over to an unfit mind.
I. God Gave Them Over to Impurity
Look at verse 24, where we read, “Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity.” As the first word we have here is “Therefore,” that’s a good place to do some recap. Remember the argument that Paul is making here. He has stated in Romans 1:16-17 that the righteous live, are justified, by faith—a point he is going to come back to in chapter 3. There is no way of obtaining righteousness except by faith in Jesus Christ.
By contrast, he’s showing how the unrighteous are condemned by their unbelief. What he is doing here from verse 18 to chapter 3 verse 20 is showing how all people, women or men, Jew or Gentile, are under condemnation because they have violated the law—whether that is the law of nature, which we read about here in chapter 1, or the law of supernatural revelation, which we will get to in chapter 2. Our purpose is to understand that all have sinned, even how all have sinned, so that we will recognize the only way to be rescued from that sin is in Christ alone.
But people, by their sinful nature, do not desire God nor His truth. They suppress the truth with their unrighteousness. They exchange the worship of the Creator for the created. They exchange the truth about God for the lie. As Pastor Tom pointed out to us last week, “Perverted worship leads to a perverted life.” And so God, in His wrath, turns the believer over to degrading passions.
“Therefore,” we read again in verse 24, “God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them.” What we have in this verse is a general statement of God having given them over. Paul gets more specific as to their lusts, their impurities, and their dishonoring of themselves in the verses that follow.
Verse 25 calls back to what we heard last week in verses 18-23. Look at verse 25: “For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie.” Pastor Tom pointed out there’s a definite article there, so it’s actually, “They exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.”
Where about to get into a list of degrading passions. This is not exactly the kind of passage you think about going through in your devotions at the family dinner table. We heard not long ago from Ephesians 5:12, “For it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret.” And so, to keep our minds fixed on the holiness of God rather than the unholiness of man, Paul offers this brief four-word doxology: “God is blessed forever,” and says, “Amen.” May it be so. May we seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and we will not be overwhelmed—whether by salacity or by sorrow—regarding this list of passions that follows.
II. God Gave Them Over to Dishonorable Passions
We go from this general statement about “the lusts of their hearts” to getting more specific about their dishonorable passions. Verse 26: “For this reason,” again, because they worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, “God gave them over.” Remember again, this is God’s wrath manifested upon the unrighteous. “God gave them over to dishonorable passions.”
What are dishonorable passions? Look at the rest of verse 26 and 27: “For their females exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, 27 and in the same way also the males abandoned the natural function of the female and burned in their desire toward one another, males with males committed indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.”
Now I want you to notice something about the language here. Most of you in your translations have this: “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.” But what did I read to you? Rather than woman and man, the words I read to you were female and male.
Almost every single translation you read will say women and men except two—the Holman Christian Standard Bible before they made the revisions and became the Christian Standard Bible, and the Legacy Standard Bible I’m reading from. Even the King James Version says women and men. I checked with Tom and Mark to make sure they were seeing the same thing I was seeing, and they confirmed: the Greek words are not the words for woman and man; they’re the Greek words for female and male respectively.
This should bring to our attention the natural order God made in the beginning. Genesis 1:27, “And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”
Brothers and sisters, there are two sexes: male and female. And males will always be male, and females will always be female. Their genetics are immutable, by God’s design. Although there are only two sexes, how many genders are there? Four. Now, before anyone drags me out to the parking lot and stones me, hear me out. People do not have genders. People have sexes. Words have genders. In grammar, the four genders of a noun are masculine, feminine, common, and neuter.
Where in the world did this concept come from that people can have any one of a multitude of genders and that gender is fluid? This idea originated with a sexologist named John Money in the 1950s and 60s. He wrote over 500 papers and 40 books on the subject of sex and gender. Money did not consider the idea that there are only two sexes to be absolute. So he hijacked the word gender, which led to the idea that though there may only be two sexes, there may be any number of different genders.
Terry Goldie, professor of English at York University in Toronto, wrote a biography on John Money. He said, “Money believed that if you were a biological male and believed yourself to be a female that it was an idée fixe—it was so important to you as a person that it could not be contradicted.” Goldie said that Money did not search for biological evidence of transgender identity, but accepted a patient’s conviction as fact, and “that you should be given the right [and the medical means] to be what you want to be.”
By the way, Money was a pedophile. His experiments included the sexual abuse of many, many children. Perhaps you’ve heard the term cisgender, which is the LGBTQ+ word for a heterosexual. That term cisgender was coined by another sexologist, Volkmar Sigusch, also a pedophile. My friends, don’t think the selection of a rainbow flag was nothing strategic. The LGBTQ+ movement uses bright colors to seduce children. This is about perversion. It has nothing to do with science.
Even the father of the transgender movement said from the beginning that there is no biological evidence for transgenderism nor does there need to be—if a man believes he’s a woman, then he’s a woman. If he feels like he’s neither and he wants to make up his own category, then that’s true, too. With an insatiable desire for sin, they have suppressed the truth and perverted that which God made from the beginning—male and female.
And lest anyone wants to say Jesus never addressed this, oh yes, He did. First of all, Jesus is the Creator who made them male and female; and secondly, He said in Matthew 19:4, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female?” He quoted right from Genesis 1:27.
But being given over to dishonorable passions, back to Romans 1:26, “Their females exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural.” It’s fascinating that Paul mentions females first before the males. By the way, that’s the same order in which they fall in the LGBTQ acrostic, isn’t it? Why does Paul mention lesbianism before sodomy as an exchange of natural function?
Women, it seems, have ingrained in themselves a natural desire for motherhood more-so than men naturally desire fatherhood. It’s why we’ll use the expression “the clock is ticking” for a woman, but we won’t say that about a man. A woman has a limited window in her lifetime in which to bear children, whereas a man can become a father at almost any age. So in an unbelieving, godless culture, if the women have surrendered their natural function for that which is unnatural, that speaks to the totality of the corrupting influence of such a culture. The desire for motherhood isn’t even there. Instead, they exchange the natural function for that which is unnatural.
John MacArthur says the following: “In our culture the Lesbian movement has been vocal and relentless and passionate and fierce and even violent. Proof that absolutely all virtue is gone when motherhood, the highest, normal human virtuous relationship is abandoned and the people who do it are elevated as cultural icons. All virtue is gone when homosexuality invades the female gender.”
Verse 27 again, “and in the same way also the males abandoned the natural function of the female and burned in their desire toward one another.” Now, to word it this way, to describe their lusts as burning with desire, is to say that the desires they have are part of the wrath of God they are under. This has been worded in just such a way to express that even the desire is disordered. If a man lusts for another man, if he has a romantic desire for other men, or likewise women with women, that is unnatural desire. Do not be fooled into thinking desire isn’t something bad until you give in to it. Even the desire for sin is sin.
Jesus said in Matthew 5 that if a man lusts for a woman, he’s already committed adultery with her in his heart. Colossians 3:5-6 says, “Therefore, consider the members of your earthly body as dead to sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry. On account of these things, the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience.” Get that—the very desire for sexual sin the wrath of God is coming against.
We read here of God giving men over to burn “in their desire toward one another, males with males committing indecent acts.” The wording is like as it appears in Law: “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination” (Leviticus 18:22). But here in Romans 1, this is spoken about as being contrary to nature. One does not need special revelation to know men having sexual relations with men is wrong.
My friends, listen to me—we inherently know a male and a male are sexually incompatible. We know that. It’s as obvious. There is surely no farmer on the planet who is so ignorant that he purchases two males of any animal expecting to get more offspring from that animal. If your kid goes to college and signs up for the ag program, and he tries to mate a male sheep with another male sheep, that university will flunk him out of their ag program—no matter how progressive and bought in to the sexual revolution that campus happens to be.
We know this so plainly that there is no reason for me to argue the point—a man is an adult human male who will always be male; a woman is an adult human female who will always be female. Sexual relations between man and woman are natural, and sexual relations between a man and a man or a woman and a woman are unnatural. And our unbelieving culture is so given over to a depraved mind that you might get fired from your job for repeating the captain obvious statement I just made.
This year, a young police officer in Georgia was suspended from his job and then forced to resign after he posted on Facebook that “God designed marriage,” and “there is no such thing as homosexual marriage.” The state of Colorado ruled again Masterpiece Cake Shop because owner Jack Phillips refused to bake a transitioning cake for a man who claimed to be a woman.
Last October, a teacher in California was fired because she refused to read books to her class that promoted same-sex marriage to children. In July, a housing manager in London was fired from her job when she voiced her belief in the biblical definition of marriage while campaigning for mayor of her local community. In June, jailer in Iowa was fired because it was discovered that he expressed his belief in the biblical definition on Facebook ten years ago.
In 1 Peter 4:4-5, we read, “In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation, maligning you, but they will give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.”
And so, the rest of verse 27 reads: “receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.” The due penalty is the fact that they have been given up to these unnatural excesses. There are very immediate consequences for those who indulge in such an unnatural lifestyle—including sexually transmitted diseases, deep depression, substance abuse, emotional and physical abuse, a shorter life expectancy—for those who exchange the natural function for that which is unnatural. And then of course there is the greater judgment in the life that is to come, if they do not repent.
III. God Gave Them Over to an Unfit Mind
So we have read that God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts (v.24-25); He gave them over to dishonorable passions (v.26-27); and finally He gave them over to an unfit mind. Look at verse 28: “And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God,” meaning they did not approve of God as being worthy of their worship, so “God gave them over to an unfit mind.” They did not see fit to acknowledge God. Fine, so God gave them over to an unfit mind, “to do those things which are not proper, having been filled with all unrighteousness.”
Remember that the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all the ungodliness and unrighteousness of man. So we come back to that statement here in verses 28-29. “They are filled with all unrighteousness.” And then Paul fills out what other manner of unrighteousness they display.
Now, some will say that because there’s this whole other list of sins here that there is no real difference between these sins and the sin of homosexuality Paul put first. But the Scriptures are clear that there is a uniqueness to sexual sin that’s unlike any other sin. As the Spirit says in 1 Corinthians 6:18, “Flee sexual immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral man sins against his own body.” And even worse than sexual sins like adultery and fornication are homosexual sins, for the Spirit describes them here in Romans 1 as unnatural desire.
Jude 7 says, “Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, having indulged in the same way as these in gross sexual immorality and having gone after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire.” Don’t try to tell Sodom and Gomorrah God whispers about sexual sin or the sin of homosexuality. These are unnatural passions that God will judge.
But not everyone who has been turned over to an unfit mind will indulge in unnatural desire. They will, however, be unable to perceive what is good and so do the right thing, and so they will be given over to doing that which is evil. These are the things which are most common among them, so often practiced that they are said to be full of these sins.
Look at the next part of verse 29: “Wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice, they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, violent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil,” they’ll even come up with new ways to sin. Friends, we’ve not even scraped the bottom of the barrel of this list. We’ve not touched on Drag Queen Story Hour at the public library, or sex ed in public schools, or pedophilia or prostitution or pornography. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of the worst sins. But it is enough to show us what those under the wrath of God will be turned over to do.
Consider the rest of verse 30: they are “disobedient to parents.” It is a thing most natural to recognize the authority of one’s parents. But if they will not submit to their parents’ authority, they submit to no authority (as we see today). Verse 31: they are “without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful.” As Proverbs 12:10 says, “Even the compassion of the wicked is cruel,” and Proverbs 27:6 says, “Deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.”
Verse 32: “and although they know the righteous requirement of God.” Get that—they know the righteous requirement of God. In verse 18, the wrath of God has been revealed from heaven; in verse 20, His eternal power and divine nature are clearly seen; and in verses 26-27, they do what they know is contrary to nature. In this passage, we’re only talking here about natural law. We haven’t even gotten to supernatural revelation, which comes in the next chapter. But just by natural, general revelation, “they know the righteous requirement of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death,” but although they know this, “they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.”
Those who do such things and those who approve of such things will receive the same punishment—the wrath of God. My friends, as I said to you in the beginning, it is important for us to recognize this, to speak clearly about these things, so that we will recognize the need for the gospel. Only one message has the power to free a person from the sins we have read about here, and that is the gospel of Jesus Christ, “the power of God for salvation to all who believe.”
If we don’t understand the seriousness of theses sins and the consequences they bring, or if we don’t understand the power of the gospel to set men and women, boys and girls free from sins such as these, then we won’t be serious about the gospel when it comes time to share it.
A friend of mine shared on social media this past week: “I had sex with so many men and women, I lost count. I took my clothes off, did heroin, stole, lied, and cheated. I was an adulterer, an alcoholic, and an addict. Jesus Christ delivered me from that and dressed me in white. You can throw paint, false church. No one can stain my gown. I am new.”
You might consider the sins that we’ve read about today to be absurd. And it’s true, they are absurd. The more you sin, the more foolish you become. I’ve seen people throw their lives away for foolish passions, and you probably have as well. Once upon a time in my life, I almost did that very thing. It’s only by the grace of God that I was not given over to my debased mind to do worse than I was doing. I praise God that I came to my senses and repented of my sin. My life returned to being fixed on Christ instead of the desires of my flesh, all by the power of the gospel. As 1 John 1:9 says, if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and He will cleanse us from all our unrighteousness.
In 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 we read, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”
By the grace of God, may there be sitting among us people who can say, “I once was that, but I’ve been washed, I am sanctified, I am justified in Jesus Christ.”
Therefore in Christ, the testimony of believers might sound like this: “Therefore, God gave them up in their hearts to self-control and purity, that their bodies might be honored among them, as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to the Lord, as our spiritual act of worship. For they kept and cherished the truth of God and worshiped and served not the creature but the Creator, who is blessed forever, Amen.”
Originally preached on the Lord’s Day, February 5, 2023, at First Baptist Church in Lindale, TX. This is not an exact transcript of the sermon in the video. Rather, this is a publication of the manuscript that was used in the sermon. Some portions may have been skipped over, either due to missing it in the manuscript or were omitted due to time.