“Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.” Romans 1:22-25
We are looking carefully into the Apostle Paul’s words about the “wrath of God” that has been revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, “who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” In our last study we looked at how people who “knew” God did not glorify God as God, “nor were thankful.” They became “futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” Even though people professed themselves to be wise, “they became fools.” They changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible people and birds, four-footed animals and creeping things.
How did God respond to their behavior?
“Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves.”
διο και παρεδωκεν αυτους ο θεος εν ταις επιθυμιαις των καρδιων αυτων εις ακαθαρσιαν του ατιμαζεσθαι τα σωματα αυτων εν εαυτοις
Actions Have Results
People gave up God and glorified themselves and other created beings, so God gave people up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves. We’ll get into specifics about how people did that, but first let’s ask a question. When? When did God give people up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves?
“Also for Adam and his wife the Lord God made tunics of skin, and clothed them.” Genesis 3:21
God’s response to Adam and Eve’s disobedience in the Garden of Eden, after telling them how difficult and painful their lives would be, was to make tunics of skin and clothe them, then remove them from the garden so they wouldn’t eat from the Tree of Life and live forever in their fallen condition. That doesn’t sound like God gave them up to uncleanness to dishonor their bodies among themselves. Sounds like He was protecting and caring for them.
God’s response to Cain’s jealousy of his brother was to warn him. Again, God demonstrated His love and care for the first children born to the first parents. When Cain killed his brother, God sent Cain away as a fugitive and vagabond. Cain was despondent and worried that people would kill him. God set a mark on Cain and said that “whoever kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” (Genesis 4:15) Even though Cain acted terribly by killing his brother, God still protected Cain. It would seem that God had not yet given up people to uncleanness to dishonor their bodies among themselves.
Though the family of Cain took a dark turn (Genesis 4:16-24), a new opportunity arose when Eve gave birth to another son, Seth. Eve said – “For God has appointed another seed for me instead of Abel, whom Cain killed.” Seth became father to Enosh and it was then that “men began to call on the name of the Lord.” (Genesis 4:26) Again, it would appear that with people calling on God’s “name” God had not yet given them up. So, when did He do that?
I think God gave people up somewhere in the timeframe of Genesis 5. Let me explain.
Enoch was the seventh generation from Adam through the line of Seth. Enoch became the father of Methuselah at the age of 65 and “walked with God” 300 years. “So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.” (Genesis 5:23-24) God “took” Enoch. What does that mean? We learn from the New Testament that it means Enoch did not die and people who searched for him did not find him.
“By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, ‘and was not found, because God had taken him’; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God.” Hebrews 11:5
Where did Enoch go? Good question. God took Enoch to Himself – possibly in a similar way that God took Elijah “into heaven by a whirlwind.” (2 Kings 2:11). Why did God “take” Enoch away so he would not see death? We know from Hebrews that Enoch had this testimony, “that he pleased God.” Genesis 5 says that Enoch “walked with God.” The Hebrew word הָלַך is translated “walked” in our English translations. The word means simply “to go.” The testimony of Genesis 5 and Hebrews 11 is that Enoch “walked”with God and in doing that “pleased God.” What a wonderful testimony for any of us to have in our relationship with God.
The genealogy of Adam through the line of Seth is interesting on several levels – both what is said and not said about each generation. Every generation included a father “begetting” a son, the father living for hundreds of years, having more sons and daughters, then finally dying. However, a few of the generations included more information that is insightful for us as we look for answers to when God “gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves.” Here is the additional information for us to observe from Genesis 5 –
“And Adam lived one hundred and thirty years, and begot a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth.”
It’s important to note here that Adam begot a son “in his own likeness, after his image.” God “created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” The importance is to see the connection the children of Adam and Eve have to God. Even as God created them in His “image” and “likeness,” so the children Adam begot were in his “likeness, after his image.” As Eve said, “For God has appointed another seed.” Eve referred back to the promise of God that He would give her a Seed who would “bruise” (שׁוּף – overwhelm) the head of the seed of the serpent (Satan). Eve was counting on God to give her the “seed” and she saw Him do that in Seth. Thus the importance of what Genesis 5 tells us about Seth.
“And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.”
We’ve already seen that Enoch pleased God as he “walked with God,” so God took him.
“ Lamech lived one hundred and eighty-two years, and had a son. And he called his name Noah, saying, ‘This one will comfort us concerning our work and the toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord has cursed.”
Lamech was the first-born son of Methuselah and grandson of Enoch. Lamech gave us an insight into what life was like after centuries of living outside the Garden of Eden. What God said to Adam in the Garden was still true in Lamech’s lifetime –
“Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, And you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return.” Genesis 3:17-19
What Lamech said reminds me of something I heard my father say many times – “Life is hard and then you die.”
However, an important prophetic insight we see in Lamech’s comment is that his son Noah would “comfort us concerning our work and the toil of our hands.” What did Lamech mean by that? He said that when he gave Noah his name, so there was something Lamech was thinking and possibly prophesying at that moment. It may have been prophetic about the eventual result of God saving the human race through Noah. Lamech may have been deeply troubled by the depravity of the human race and cried out in hope for God to bring some kind of resolution and comfort to them through Noah. He may have been troubled by the disappearance of his grandfather, Enoch, many years before. That’s a theory since the Bible doesn’t tell us Lamech’s reason for saying what he did when naming Noah. What we do know is that Lamech saw in Noah some kind of “comfort” for them concerning the work and toil of their hands.
[On a side note, it’s interesting to note that Lamech died at the age of 777. Lamech was 182 when Noah was born and died 595 years later. The Bible reads that “Noah was six hundred years old when the floodwaters were on the earth.” That means Lamech would have died about five years before the flood. The lifespan of other fathers in the lineage of Seth was about 900 years old or older. Lamech’s death at 777 would have been earlier than the others by more than a century.]
As we look at the lineages of Cain and Seth we see something going terribly wrong. The human condition got worse and worse. As we understand the power of the “sin nature” we see how it permeates the mind, heart and will at an ever increasing pace. We see that in the framework of humans now who live for a hundred years or less. While there are some who have lived to be 105, 110, 115, 120, and even 122, those numbers don’t compare with the descendants of Cain and Seth who lived for almost a thousand years. Can you imagine what it would be like to live with the sin nature raging and growing in your mind, heart and will for that long? No wonder the Bible describes people living prior to the Flood as “every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Genesis 6:5) The sin nature can do that to a human being in much less time, so what must it have been like to have an entire human population living in that condition for hundreds and hundreds of years?
God may have taken Enoch early because He was in the process of giving up the human race “to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves” and wanted to remove Enoch from it. God may have done it for another reason. What we do know is that sometime prior to the Flood, God gave up the human race to their hearts’ desire.
Giving Them Up
So, what did Paul mean by writing that God “gave them up”? The Greek is παραδίδωμι αὐτός (paradidómi autos) and means “to hand over, to give or deliver over”. The full meaning of the word is “to give into the hands of another, to give over into one’s power or use.” God gave people up to another power – the power of the sin nature. One Greek professor put it this way –
“Since men chose to give up God and worship the creature, God could do nothing but give men into the control of the sinful things they preferred to God. In other words, God would not violate man’s will and force him to do something he did not want to do. When men persisted in following their totally depraved natures, God allowed them free rein. The natural result was immortality of the vilest kind.” (Word Studies in the Greek New Testament Volume I, Dr. Kenneth Wuest, Eerdman’s Publishing, 1955)
Wuest went on to quote Dr. Henry Alford in saying that God’s act of delivering mankind over to the control of the depravity of the sin nature was “not merely permissive, but judicial, God delivered them over.”
The idea of God “judging” the human race through the process of “giving them up” is an interesting one. Here are some thoughts on that from others –
Adam Clarke wrote – ‘They had filled up the measure of their iniquities, and God, by permitting them to plunge into all manner of irregularities, thus, by one species of sin, inflicted punishment on another.” (Clarke, Adam, 1832)
John Gill – “Not by putting any into them, but by leaving them to the pollution of their nature; by withdrawing his providential restraints from them, and by giving them up to judicial hardness.” (John Gill’s Exposition of the Whole Bible, 1748)
John Calvin – “As impiety is a hidden evil, lest they should still find an evasion, he shows, by a more palpable demonstration, that, they cannot escape, but must be held fast by a just condemnation, since such fruits have followed this impiety as cannot be viewed otherwise than manifest evidences of the Lord’s wrath. As the Lord’s wrath is always just, it follows, that what has exposed them to condemnation, must have preceded it. By these evidences then he now proves the apostasy and defection of men: for the Lord indeed does so punish those, who alienate themselves from his goodness, that he casts them headlong into various courses which lead to perdition and ruin. And by comparing the vices, of which they were guilty, with the impiety, of which he had before accused them, he shows that they suffered punishment through the just judgment of God: for since nothing is dearer to us than our own honor, it is extreme blindness, when we fear not to bring disgrace on ourselves; and it is the most suitable punishment for a reproach done to the Divine Majesty. This is the very thing which he treats of to the end of the chapter; but he handles it in various ways, for the subject required ample illustration.” (Calvin’s Commentary on the Bible, 1540)
“The καί after διό may import, As they advanced in departure from God, so God also on His part gave them up, &c.;—His dealings with them had a progression likewise. [παρέδωκεν] not merely permissive, but judicial: God delivered them over. As sin begets sin, and darkness of mind deeper darkness, grace gives place to judgment, and the divine wrath hardens men, and hurries them on to more fearful degrees of depravity.” (Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary)
God “handed over, delivered” humans to uncleanness. We will look at what that means in the next part of our study of Romans – The Gospel of God.
“Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”