“Wrestling With Romans”
As Good as it Gets, Without Jesus (Chapter 1 Verses 18-32)
The picture is one of total depravity (vv26-32), there is no other way you can describe it. It is nothing but shameful disgrace, and we are told here God further gave them over to this (v26). We are clearly taught that some of the sexual practices we see in our society today, and which are taught to children in schools and colleges, that the government of the day, and the media inculcate, are totally unacceptable, even abhorrent to the divine mind (vv26-27; Leviticus 18.22). It is perversion, says the Holy Spirit (v27b), it is anything but natural. It is neither because they were created that way, nor because they just happen to be that way, it is the result of sinful passion. It needs to be repented of, like any other sin, along with an embracing of the Lord Jesus for forgiveness and purifying (Mark 1.15; Acts 16.31; 1John 1.7). It goes deeper yet, sin seeps into the depths of the mind (v28), and deranges the entirety of man’s existence, affecting the totality of his being (v29). The catalogue of vices here is staggering (vv29-31). A nation has surely bottomed out when even natural affection has disappeared (v31)? In Paul’s day the very same humanistic paganism, manifested the same vices, and the Apostle is quite clear concerning the source of them (Genesis 6.5). He knew only too well what Judaism was capable of, what they had done to the Lord Jesus, to the other Apostles, and fellow Christians, together they had tasted their implacable hatred.
Paul does not in any sense deny that godless people lack any natural goodness, no, when we say that humanity is totally depraved we are not saying everyone is as evil as they can be. Some are kept from the more open, uglier and baser aspects of sin. Some are placed in very respectable, even very prosperous circumstances. Some would attribute this to some kind of common grace, of this the Bible says nothing. No, God channels all sin, controls and even uses it to cause his sovereign purpose, the salvation of the elect. The prosperity of the wicked is used to harden and lead them to their destruction (Psalm 73:17-19). In their hearts all men know that there is a God (v32), with whom they will have to deal with, even their own sense of judgment, the righteous anger they display when they witness some awful atrocity. In spite of that fact, they continue in their course (v32b). God has encircled humanity with putrefaction, so that everywhere we look we see the punishment of sin. Surely this certain universal destruction the world over, in every generation, swallowed up, as by a flood that nothing can resist, must be the most glaring manifestation of God’s anger for the sinfulness of humankind (Psalm 90.3). We must learn from these verses the true state of human nature and its only remedy. To be made new creatures by Jesus Christ (2Corinthians 5.17; Galatians 6.15; Ephesians 2.10), and reformed by his divine Spirit and word, into a new life, simply because, nothing, absolutely nothing else, will do (John 3.3; 2Peter 1.4).
(© James R Hamilton, written September, 1997)