Romans – The Gospel of God (Part 53)

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

In our last study, we saw that because of their foolishness, God gave human beings up to “uncleanness, in the lusts of their heart, to dishonor their bodies among themselves.” In today’s study, we will look at what they received for their foolishness.

The Exchange

“… who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever.”

οιτινες μετηλλαξαν την αληθειαν του θεου εν τω ψευδει και εσεβασθησαν και ελατρευσαν τη κτισει παρα τον κτισαντα ος εστιν ευλογητος εις τους αιωνας αμην

The Apostle Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit as he wrote to Christians in Rome, made the truth claim that the foolishness of human beings led them to “exchange” the truth of God for “the lie.” What did Paul mean by that?

The word “exchanged” is a translation of the Greek word μετηλλαξαν. It is the combination of two words: μετά (with, after) and ἀλλάσσω (change, alter, exchange, transform). Paul used ἀλλάσσω several words earlier when he wrote – “and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man …”

Paul is pointing to a terrible exchange on the part of humans: they changed (exchanged) both the “glory of God” and “the truth of God.” What did humans receive in the exchange? 

  • an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things
  • the lie

No wonder Paul referred to humans as “Professing to be wise, they became fools.” God created humans and gave them Himself as well as the Truth. They foolishly exchanged that for an image made like corruptible man and “the lie.”

What is “the lie”? (τό ψευδει – to pseudei .. definite article used with noun)

“The lie” hearkens back to the words of Satan in the Garden of Eden:

Then the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:4-5

Satan’s lie then, and now, is that humans can “be like God.” That foolish advice led to the foolish choice by humans to exchange “the truth of God for the lie.” The Greek word translated “lie” means “falsehood, untruth, lie.” It comes from the verb ψεύδομαι, which means “deceive, speak falsely.” That is exactly what Satan did when he spoke to Eve – he deceived her through his false speech:

For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.” 1 Timothy 2:13-14

“But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” 2 Corinthians 11:3

“You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it” John 8:44

We know the end of the story:

 So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” Revelation 12:9

God created humans to worship and serve Him. What happened when humans exchanged that truth for “the lie”? They “worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator.” Notice the “change” here. God created humans to worship Him, the Creator. Humans foolishly chose to worship the creature rather than the Creator. God created humans to serve Him, the Creator. Humans foolishly chose to serve the creature rather than the Creator.

Worship

What does it mean to “worship” someone or something? The Greek word Paul used in Romans 1 is σεβάζομαι. It means “to revere, to stand in awe, to venerate, to adore, to esteem highly.” What happens when people see the glory of God?

“All the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the tabernacle door, and all the people rose and worshiped, each man in his tent door.” Exodus 33:10

“So Moses made haste and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshiped.” Exodus 34:8

So He said, ‘No, but as Commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.’ And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped, and said to Him, ‘What does my Lord say to His servant?” Joshua 5:14

When all the children of Israel saw how the fire came down, and the glory of the Lord on the temple, they bowed their faces to the ground on the pavement, and worshiped and praised the Lord, saying: ‘For He is good, For His mercy endures forever.” 2 Chronicles 7:3

“And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” Matthew 2:11

“Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, “Truly You are the Son of God.” Matthew 14:33

Now it came to pass, while He blessed them, that He was parted from them and carried up into heaven. And they worshiped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple praising and blessing God. Amen.” Luke 24:51-53

“Then he said, ‘Lord, I believe!’ And he worshiped Him.” John 9:38

What about beings God created who live in Heaven? How do they respond to God?

Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying: ‘You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created.” Revelation 4:9-11

“Then the four living creatures said, ‘Amen!’ And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped Him who lives forever and ever.” Revelation 5:14

And the twenty-four elders who sat before God on their thrones fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying: ‘We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty, The One who is and who was and who is to come, Because You have taken Your great power and reigned.” Revelation 11:16-17

Angels who live in the presence of God are sensitive to making sure only God receives worship:

Now I, John, saw and heard these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel who showed me these things. Then he said to me, ‘See that you do not do that. For I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.” Revelation 22:8-9

Without question, the Bible is clear that God seeks people to worship Him. Jesus said –

“But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.” John 4:23

Serve

What about “serving” God? Is that different than “worshipping” God?

The Greek word Paul used for “served” is λατρεύω. It comes from λάτρις, which means “hired servant, hireling.”  The noun, λατρεία, means “sacred service, worship.” To “serve” in this context is to serve as part of one’s worship.

Question: what was God’s purpose in calling Moses to go to Pharaoh and ask for the release of the Israelites from slavery?

Answer: “When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.” Exodus 3:12

God calling on Pharaoh to release the Israelites from bondage so they could “serve” Him was a continual theme in Exodus (e.g. Exodus 4:23; 7:16; 8:1, 20; 9:1, 13; 10:3). Pharaoh understood what God was commanding him to do –

“So Moses and Aaron were brought again to Pharaoh, and he said to them, “Go, serve the Lord your God. Who are the ones that are going?” Exodus 10:8

“Then Pharaoh called to Moses and said, “Go, serve the Lord; only let your flocks and your herds be kept back. Let your little ones also go with you.” Exodus 10:24

Then he called for Moses and Aaron by night, and said, ‘Rise, go out from among my people, both you and the children of Israel. And go, serve the Lord as you have said. Also take your flocks and your herds, as you have said, and be gone; and bless me also.” Exodus 12:31-32

Once Moses and the Israelites escaped from Egypt and were in the wilderness, God reminded them that they were to serve Him and only Him –

You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.” Exodus 20:4-6

God also clearly spelled out to Israel what would happen to them if they worshipped and served anyone or anything other than Him –

“They shall not dwell in your land, lest they make you sin against Me. For if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you.” Exodus 23:33

Take careful heed to yourselves, for you saw no form when the Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, lest you act corruptly and make for yourselves a carved image in the form of any figure: the likeness of male or female, the likeness of any animal that is on the earth or the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the air, the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground or the likeness of any fish that is in the water beneath the earth. And take heed, lest you lift your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun, the moon, and the stars, all the host of heaven, you feel driven to worship them and serve them, which the Lord your God has given to all the peoples under the whole heaven as a heritage.” Deuteronomy 4:15-19

The Hebrew word used to serve both God and creature (idols) is עָבַד (abad). It means “to work, serve, worship.” What did the Israelites often do instead of serving/worshipping God? They served/worshipped images “made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.” They “exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator.” That is the sad, sad story of how humans have treated God through the millennia.

Blessed Forever

Paul adds a short phrase after people exchanging the truth of God for the lie, and worshipping and serving the creature rather than the Creator – “who is blessed forever.” What does that mean and why did Paul add it there?

The Greek is ος εστιν ευλογητος εις τους αιωνας αμην – “who is blessed to the ages.” The word “blessed” is εὐλογητός (eulogétos) and is means “worthy of praise, speak well of.” When someone does a “eulogy” at a funeral they are speaking well or highly of the person who has died.

This phrasing by Paul is not unusual of ancient writings about God –

Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. And he blessed him and said: ‘Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.’ And he gave him a tithe of all.” Genesis 14:18-20

“And he said, “Blessed be the Lord God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken His mercy and His truth toward my master. As for me, being on the way, the Lord led me to the house of my master’s brethren.” Genesis 24:27

Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, For He has visited and redeemed His people.” Luke 1:68

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort.” 2 Corinthians 1:3

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” Ephesians 1:3

The word “Amen” (ἀμήν) is used often in the Bible at the end of a thought. It means “so let it be.” It comes from the Hebrew word -אָמֵן (amen), which means “verily, truly.”

Next Time

In the next part of our study, we will see the Apostle Paul address another aspect of how God “gave them up.”

“Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”

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