In the previous article, we considered homosexual sin. We saw that God utterly condemned the practice of homosexuality, but nevertheless offered forgiveness to everyone who called on the Lord Jesus for mercy and who renounced their sin permanently.
It should go without saying that what applies to practicing homosexuals applies also to those with homosexual inclinations or tendencies, but who do not engage in any homosexual practices. These people, too, are included in God’s offer of mercy. God acknowledges and approves of the fact that they have kept themselves from the practice of sin.
This, in itself, will not save them. This is partly because salvation must include deliverance from a person’s sinful thoughts and attitudes, as well as from his sinful acts or practices. However, God takes note of their self-control, and he esteems them highly on this account. Regardless of their sexual orientation—whether real or imagined—God loves them. In the same way in which he receives any truly repentant sinner, he will receive them. He will forgive them of all sin—including sins of the mind or heart—and grant to them the gift of eternal life. The possibility that they may continue to have homosexual tendencies or inclinations will not, in itself, exclude them from God’s love or from God’s eternal kingdom.
One day, God will remove all sinful inclinations from each of our lives—and all of us have some type of sinful inclination or another. However, for those who have homosexual tendencies, they must be extremely careful to avoid any situation that would tempt them to sin. In addition, of course—as Christians—they must never engage in any form of homosexual practices.
This principle, of course, applies to every form of temptation to sin. Every one of us has a particular weak point in our lives. Therefore, we must all do our utmost to avoid the kind of situations that exploit our weaknesses and expose us to temptation—whatever form that temptation may take.
Again, as Christians, we must never engage in any sinful practices of any description. Yet, even here, God makes provision for those of us who, at times, fall into sin. Upon acknowledging and confessing our sin to God, the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin and restores us to fellowship with him. (1 John 1:6 – 2:2)
Mankind’s Moral Degradation
We must not imagine, however, that it is only because of sexually immorality and perversion that God abandons people to their sins and its consequences. The same applies to every other kind of sinful practice or attitude. Thus, in illustration of the kind of reasons why God gives people over to their sins, the apostle Paul writes:
Romans 1:28 ESV
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.
In addition to, or rather because of, their godlessness and wickedness, God gives these people over to a depraved mind. Because they do not think it worth their while to recognise God, or to retain any knowledge of his existence, power and glory, God abandons them to moral and spiritual depravity (vv. 18,21). This does not mean that everyone is, or becomes, thoroughly depraved. However, everyone is, or becomes, thoroughly polluted in body and soul (including their mind) by their rejection of God and of his holy and righteous standards of behaviour.
The more involved a person becomes in his sin, the more morally, spiritually—and often physically—polluted he becomes. Thus, sin becomes that person’s punishment, leading him or her ultimately to moral, spiritual—and perhaps mental and/or physical—degradation and ruin. (Prov. 1:29-32; Rom. 6:23; cf. Gal. 6:7-8)
As has been noted earlier, these consequences do not apply only to those who engage in sexually immoral or perverted practices. Eventually, such repercussions become true of every type of persistent and impenitent sinner. Paul illustrates this truth when he writes:
Romans 1:29 a,b ESV
They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness…
Once God abandons a person to his or her sin, that person eventually becomes filled with a range of sinful attitudes, inclinations and habits. Sin, and sinful thoughts, dominate and overwhelm their godless minds. Ultimately, this can lead them to the unrestrained practise of evil deeds. Verse 29a,b (NIV) says that—eventually—these godless people become filled with some, at least, of the following sins:
Wickedness: They are filled with wickedness or unrighteousness of heart and life. Wickedness is essential badness of a person’s inward nature, or an absence of moral and spiritual values. It is often accompanied by a disregard for law and justice. It may be accompanied by a morally warped mind.
Evil: They are filled with evil or the deliberate intention to cause harm or to indulge in iniquity, and to encourage others to do the same. They are strenuously opposed to God and to everything that is essentially good and true. (Compare the expression, the Evil [one] (i.e., Satan) as the adversary of God and man.)
Greed: They are filled with greed, or all manner of covetous and selfish desires. Dissatisfied with what they have, they are forever seeking more. The cry of the greedy or covetous is more, more, more! Greed is another form of idolatry, since it involves the love of, and commitment of one’s heart to the pursuit of, ungodly objects or aims.
Depravity: Ultimately, they become filled with depravity, or a morally perverse nature and personality. Such a personality is completely dominated by sinful attitudes, desires and passions.
Envy: They are filled with envy, or a sinful and jealous regard to what belongs to others. Alternatively, they desire to attain to the same level of success or achievement as others. In this case, envy may be closely related to selfish ambition.
Murder: They harbour lingering grudges in their hearts, followed ultimately by hatred, and then by murderous thoughts. Frequently, this leads them to commit violence against other people, or even to the act of murder itself.
Strife: Their minds become filled with inward strife, dissension or conflict, and they demonstrate their strife toward other people by an argumentative and hostile attitude.
Deceit: They are filled with lies, deceit, and dishonest and fraudulent practices. Deceit may also include craftiness, subtlety or guile.
Malice: They demonstrate a malicious or evil attitude toward those who oppose them, disagree with them, or who—in their estimation—have done them some kind of wrong.
Such is the picture Paul paints of fallen and sinful mankind throughout the world. However, the apostle has not yet finished listing mankind’s catalogue of sins. We will consider the remainder in the next article.
(To be continued)
[Excerpt from Expository Notes: Romans (chapter 1 verses 28-29). To read or download the full version of these Notes, click on the NT Commentaries menu tab above.]Follow @gordon_lyons