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Given Over

Or, Lies, Lusts, and Cultural Lunacy
Romans 1:24-27
October 24, 2021
Lord’s Day Worship
Sean Higgins


We have every reason to hope in the gospel. The gospel is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes (Romans 1:16). Unlike Paul’s recipients in Rome, we have two thousand years of gospel history, of gospel blessings, and those blessings have mostly moved west from Jerusalem through Rome and through regenerated men and the cultures they’ve forged. Many have tasted that the Lord is good, and then they have walked in the good works prepared beforehand (Ephesians 2:10).

God gives blessings to individual believers and their communities, some hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty (see Matthew 13:23). But when men throw that fruit back at God, when men thrown that fruit down on the ground, or when men come to think of themselves as producing their own fruit, individuals are damned and cultures are dismantled, gutted. We are living in a brand new set of ruins. We are not climate-deniers, we are Creator-deniers.

The complement of the righteousness of God being revealed (Romans 1:17) is the wrath of God being revealed (Romans 1:18). The Apocalypse proper unveils eschatological, final, eternal wrath. The unveiling of wrath here in Romans 1 is a trajectory wrath, not the telos wrath. The wrath that God reveals against those who conceal what they know about God corresponds with the lies they use to do the concealing. It’s been referred to as abandoning wrath, it results in a web of lies and lusts and cultural lunacy that defines itself against truth and goodness and beauty.

Paul repeats a simple but awful phrase three times starting in verse 24: “God gave them over.” It marks three factors of God’s abandoning wrath; we’ll consider the first two today.

Given Over to the Lie That Corrupts Them (verses 24-25)

Paul’s argument progresses with a Therefore, but this is anti-progress for mankind.

God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to uncleanness, to the dishonoring of their bodies among them,

In verse 24, the lusts are a consequence of God’s wrath, not the cause of His wrath. It does not mean that God implanted desires that were not there. It means that God not only does not restrain those desires, He positively puts men in a position to be more and more dominated by their own desires. He gives them what they think they want. He gives them the desires of their hearts. Abandoning wrath could also be called delivering wrath. God gives over, as in He transfers custody (for example, “committed to prison” Acts 8:3; or when He delivers Israel’s enemies into her hands, Exodus 23:31). See Psalm 81:12 – They won’t listen to the Lord? He lets them eat confusion and corruption.

The resulting status of being given over is: uncleanness (KJV), the sort of decay found in graves (see Matthew 23:27), filth, “impurity” (ESV). Their practice: self-dishonoring. It is not an adjective, it is their activity. The verb starts with honor and then removes it (ἀτιμάζεσθαι). Note the “their,” the “them,” and the middle voice of the infinitive in Greek, pointing toward a reflexive action. They are doing it to them-selves. They are victims in so far as they are also the victimizers.

Such dishonoring happens to their bodies. There are physical manifestations of God’s wrath, just as there are physical, bodily obligations of worship for living sacrifices by His mercies (Romans 12:1). Sometimes you can see when someone has lived a hard life.

Verse 25 finishes the sentence, and qualifies the “them” who are being given over as those who chose against the truth.

those who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, who both worshiped and served the creation rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever, amen.

Exchanged was found in verse 23, it is used again in verse 26. In all three uses it is a bad trade; immortal for mortal, natural for unnatural, and God for “good.”

They wanted the lie. Every idol is a false god, so there could be multiple lies of various names. This seems to be one lie, the lie par excellence, the lie of lies. It’s the lie of materialism, the lie that what you see is all there is, the lie that what your heart wants must be right, the lie of life under the sun, the lie of autonomy from God.

But the Lie is their lord. The Lie has believers. The Lie has a church, and the church is the world. Rather than glorify God and give Him thanks for creation, the lie-lusters worshiped and served what has been made, which is a worse deal than choosing an egg rather than a chicken, choosing a fish instead of the One who makes fish.

The Creator is God, the Creator is immortal, the Creator is blessed forever. It’s almost as if Paul couldn’t stand how frustrating the last six and a half verses were, so he threw in this mini-doxology before getting back to the wrath. The blessed Giver gave gifts, the Giver gives men over to the lies that corrupt them, and He hasn’t lost a moment of blessing worrying about it.

Given Over to the Lusts That Consume Them (verses 26-27)

Verses 26-27 contain the second of three God-given-overs. It’s the same phrase that stems from refusing to acknowledge God, and now there is a more particular, embodied and relational unveiling of wrath. God is still the subject; He is the Giver-over. More than natural consequences, there are supernatural consequences of rejecting the natural.

Because of this (life in the church of the Lie), God gave them over unto all dishonor

They lusted for self-dishonor so God delivers them into Dishonorville.

The honor-wrecking becomes visible in this phase among the sexes, which, apparently requires renewed clarity in our day and age, means among females and males.

for both their females exchanged the natural use for the against-natural (use),

The dishonor belongs to both male and female, though it does stand out that Paul starts with the females, and for that matter, that he explicitly uses the word for females rather than “women.”

The words in verses 26 and 27 emphasize female and male (θήλειαι and ἄρσενες), as in the LXX of the creation account (Genesis 1:27).

Some have suggested that Paul started with the birthing-persons because once a society’s mothers give up mothering, that society dies by natural causes; a generation goes by itself but a generation doesn’t come without moms. At least mothers should have better instinct. But it’s the God-given, life-giving nature that these females go against. They trade away the glory of their fruitfulness.

Female nature is not a social construct; same-sex relationships are a social construct. Female nature was not invented by males to oppress the females; it wasn’t men who made women weaker vessels.

Females with females is no more an acceptable “alternative lifestyle” than cardboard boxes are an acceptable alternative for wheels. Mutual consent by adults, or opinions by Supreme Court judges, are signs of God’s wrath. Our media talks like lesbianism (or even transgenderism) is freedom and progress, but in reality our civilization has been shot in the chest, and cardboard boxes for wheels on the ambulance aren’t going to get us to the hospital.

Paul has much more to say about the depravity of the males.

and also the males burned in their passions for one another, giving up the natural use of the females like (the females did)

Likewise the dudes make a trade. As they are given over, they are giving up, not the same word as what God is doing to them, but perhaps more correlative to God rejecting them than the lesbians rejecting them.

The main verb here is burning. They are consumed, they are inflamed by their passions, which are depraved, dishonorable, degenerate, and self-destructive. It’s like a culture of bored Caesars groping for jollies like the Sodomites at Lot’s door (Genesis 19:11).

men working aggressively shamelessness with men and the recompense of their error which is necessary (they are) receiving in themselves.

Does it seem like homosexuality is gross? It is. It anti-nature, it is not natural or normal, and it is shameful. It is a sign of God’s wrath, not blessing, and the more abandoned the more aggressive. Why are gays so loud about it? Why do they need their own television shows? Why do they care about legalizing gay “marriage”? What are they compensating for with PRIDE parades? Homosexuals often seem less ashamed about being gay than Christians do about the gospel.

The last part of verse 27 is a result of the burning: the anti-natural relationships result in anti-reward. The error not only compounds, it necessarily compounds. The burning messes with their own selves. Paul was not referring to HIV and then AIDS, though that is a judgment on homosexual sins.

I have said that this is a cultural lunacy, not merely an individual confusion. I say this based on a few observations of the paragraph.

First, all the pronouns are plural; it’s one thing when it’s one (ashamed) person on the fringe, it’s another thing when the whole party struts down Main Street. Second is that, by definition, lesbian and gay sins are shared sins. Third is “their females” in verse 26, referring to a demographic within a population, within an empire.

The cultural lunacy is visible in sexual immorality and gender confusion. Of course would be. These sins strike at the core of bearing God’s image as male or female. They despise God, so they despise any remnant or reflection that reminds them of God.

We have come so far as to deny that being male or female is natural, or unchangeable. We have come so far that our medical “professionals” punish those who won’t affirm desires for change. Our “Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary for Health” and head of the U.S. Public Health Service, a man celebrated for trying to not be a man, would rather wear makeup and a dress than thank God. Roe v. Wade shows that we would rather legalize the killing of our own offspring than thank God. The Obergerfell ruling shows that we would rather legalize two-bridegrooms and a baby than thank God.

The cultural propaganda is worldliness, what others have referred to as the soocial imaginary. It is a religiously motivated network of agreements and penalties. It’s like living underground under the spell of the Lady of the Green Kirtle in The Silver Chair; Prince Rillian was not the crazy one. They can’t have biology, let alone restrictive legislation or traditions. Conservative customs and cultural taboos must be abandoned. They want a religious exemption from gender.


There is a third “God gave them over” in verse 28, introducing additional descriptions of a culture that has given up worshiping God and been given over.

This people is given over to the lie that corrupts and given over to the lusts that consume. Sin deserves punishment, and part of the punishment is more sin.

By contrast, what sort of blessings do those who do glorify God and give Him thanks receive?

  • They have the blessing of honor. Autonomy is the bed pan of human glory.
  • They have the blessing of freedom from burning and self-destructing lusts. Autonomy is the dungeon of human willpower.
  • They have the blessing of fruitfulness. Autonomy is the dead-end of human vision.
  • They have the blessing of truth. Autonomy is the devil of human understanding.
  • They have the blessing of a Creator, which is at minimum a key category-shelf for understanding the cosmos, and even more a comfort as we have communion with Him in worship and reason for serving. Autonomy is a fool’s idol.

Those who are given over to the lusts of their hearts become a culture so immoral and absurd that only only the power of God in the gospel can fix. Preach the gospel.

As for those who do believe the gospel, glorify God, thank Him for your wife and kids, thank Him for His mercies that renew your mind and consecrate your bodies to the good, the pleasing, the perfect (Romans 12:2).


You are the light in a world that loves darkness. You are the salt among men of earth who have no taste. May God make your light unhidden, your salt savory, your body sanctified and honorable, and your faith in the truth like titanium vertebrae.


Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. (1 Peter 2:11–12, ESV)