|Volume 17 Number 7 July 2015||
One of the scariest thoughts that can come to one’s mind is the possibility of God simply giving up on people. There is no argument or doubt that God loves all (John 3:16) and that He desires the salvation of all (1 Timothy 2:4), but there can also be no argument or doubt that God will simply leave men to their own sinful devices and “give up” on them as it were.
Romans 1:17 through Chapter Three deals with the sin problem man has from the perspective of both the Jew and the Gentile. In the context of chapters One and Two, which deal with the sins of the Gentile world, the reader should take note that within the latter portion of Chapter One the phrase “God gave them up” or “God gave them over” (KJV) is used three times. In this article we will examine the significance and seriousness of this phrase as employed in the text to show to each of us the fact that there indeed comes a time when God gives up on people and leaves them to their own selfish and sinful vices.
God Gave Them Up to Uncleanness (v. 24)
The context notes that these individuals under consideration “knew God” but “glorified him not as God” (v. 21) and possessed “vain imaginations” and “darkened” hearts or minds. Further, the text reveals that they considered themselves wise, but in reality they were fools (v. 22) because they had attempted to change the uncorruptible, unchangeable God into “an image made like to corruptible man” (v. 23). Individuals such as these described here in this verse were willful and constant rebellers against the perfect and just will of God. As a result, God, knowing their hearts and seeing them filled with sinful lusts, “gave them up to uncleanness, through the lusts of their own hearts to dishonor their own bodies between themselves.” The construction of the phrase in the original language connotes that God abandoned these individuals to impurity and those actions associated therein. These people (as well as people today) were so desperate to do what was evil and perverse that God allowed them to carry out their desires by abandoning them to these vile acts. Sadly and obviously, there are many today who will not be reached with the Gospel of Christ because of this very same disposition. When people have this desire, there really isn’t much one can do other than to leave them to “wallow in the mire.”
God Gave Them Up To Vile Affections (v. 26)
This phrase deals with the same principle discussed in Verse 24 in that it deals with acts that were and are still unnatural. The vile passions to which God abandoned these people were those of homosexuality (v. 26b-27). These affections were and are vile because God never intended such to occur. These acts are rebellion against God’s natural order (Matthew 19:4). When men and women insist on doing such things, God will allow them to do them, but in the end, they will receive “the recompence of their error” (v. 27), that is, they will face consequences for their actions both in the here and now but also in eternity.
God Gave Them Over to a Reprobate Mind (v. 28)
This statement reveals the answer as to the “why” God gives people up and over to such things. It is because they have given themselves over to them in their own minds in that they possess a mind that wants nothing to do with God or to retain Him in their knowledge (v. 28). Contextually, the Gentiles “refused” (that is they “tested,” from the Greek “dokimazo”) and determined they wanted nothing to do with God. As a result, God allowed them to reject Him (God will not violate man’s free will) by leaving them to themselves. As a result they began to pay the price for lives lived apart from God. This same principle holds true today. There are a great many people who have rejected God because His will does not correspond with what they want for their lives. As a result, God gives them up to their own reprobate minds to do those things that are “not convenient” or those things that are not fit or right.
In reality, these three phrases say that God gives people up, but it is not so much that God gives them up as they give God up. When men give God up or want nothing to do with God, then it is God who gill give them over (allow, abandon them) to do those things that they want to do because God created men with the ability to choose. God will not force men to obey Him. Men choose to give up God when they refuse to “know” God by accepting and submitting to His will. However, all are warned that to give God up will result in Him giving us up and over to sin. Yet, if we draw nigh unto God by humbly conforming our lives to His will, then He will draw nigh unto us (James 4:8).
“So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard’” (Acts 4:18-20 ESV).
I admit that I get frustrated as I read all the various reports about the attacks on religion in our country, and especially on anything that identifies itself as “Christian.” While I will admit that I am often in disagreement with what is being done in the name of Christianity (finding no basis in the New Testament for many practices), the fact is that whenever anything that is perceived as “Christian” is attacked, it has an effect on those trying to practice pure and undefiled New Testament Christianity. I am stupefied by the absolute misinterpreting of the concept (not actually constitutional but found in other documents) of the “separation of church and state.” I do not want a government run or mandated religion. However, the free practice of religion is protected for each individual (not freedom from religion, but freedom of religion!) by our constitution. Beginning with the guise of “separation of church and state,” a constant attack is being made on the practice of religion in our country, period.
However, in the end, the fact is that it does not matter. Ultimately, I am to stay faithful to God, to speak about God and to attempt to spread the Gospel message – no matter what government says. We are blessed (and spoiled) to have the ability to worship legally, freely and as often as we wish. That freedom is under attack constantly, and as “victories” are won in the court system contrary to the free practice of religion, those who hate religion and Christianity particularly are going to expand their attacks beyond their “separation” argument. Eventually if they have their way, our freedom of religion will be totally gone. However, the fact is that it does not matter. Ultimately, I am to stay faithful to God, to speak about God and to attempt to spread the Gospel message – no matter what government says.
Drunkenness, promiscuity, homosexuality and abortion are all legal under our government, but that does not mean I have to practice them. “Political correctness” does not just demand that we speak politely (we all agree with politeness). PC wants us to toe the line of what the PC police believe, and that definitely does not include the call that “there is salvation in no other name given among men” but the name of Jesus.
We are going to honor the name of Jesus, no matter what government or anyone else says. We are going to live for Jesus, no matter how unpopular or ridiculed that may be. We are going to spread the Gospel, no matter how politically incorrect that is. We are going to stand for God even if the foundations of society are shaken by evil. We are going to stay faithful and be participants in the victory that is in Jesus Christ, though the world thinks that it has defeated us.
Because of our stand with Him – we are going to win! No debate, no question and no other possible outcome – we will win! That does matter!