the ‘s’ word.

romans 1: 18-32, nlt

18 But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness19 They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. 20 For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.

21 Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. 22 Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools.23 And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles.

24 So God abandoned them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desired. As a result, they did vile and degrading things with each other’s bodies. 25 They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise! Amen. 26That is why God abandoned them to their shameful desires. Even the women turned against the natural way to have sex and instead indulged in sex with each other. 27 And the men, instead of having normal sexual relations with women, burned with lust for each other. Men did shameful things with other men, and as a result of this sin, they suffered within themselves the penalty they deserved.

28 Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done. 29 Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip. 30 They are backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful. They invent new ways of sinning, and they disobey their parents. 31They refuse to understand, break their promises, are heartless, and have no mercy. 32 They know God’s justice requires that those who do these things deserve to die, yet they do them anyway. Worse yet, they encourage others to do them, too.

* * * * * * * * * *

if one is going to make an argument about the way god feels about sin, it’s important we don’t read this passage out of context in the way sin (and sinners) is described. i encourage you to read very, very carefully what paul is saying. equally important, understand what he is not saying.

in verse 21, paul defines the wicked as people who know who god is, have been shown and taught the truth of who god is, and then deliberately choose -as in, turn their backs entirely on- god. not only that, but it goes on to say in verse 22 that these same folks created false idols and other gods to worship. they were offered the option of following christ (so they couldn’t feign ignorance) and turned in the complete opposite direction. and that is when god turned his back on them and left them to their wiles. they were savages with no regard to the nature of god, even choosing against the justice system of god.

again, in the end, it’s our hearts that matter.

what, then, is paul not saying?

would love to hear any truth, insight, or theology you can bring to the table.

16 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. LeeBird
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 17:40:59

    Can you imagine the darkness in the hearts of those who’ve made that fateful choice? But for the grace of God go I. I’m so grateful that all it takes is one heart turn for the darkness to flee and for the Light to flood in.

    • mary kathryn tyson
      Jun 29, 2011 @ 17:47:06

      me too, leebird.

      don’t you think, too…being prodigal is one thing, because he comes back to his truth. but being wicked? and choosing wicked? just shutting the door on light on purpose? it seems to me another thing all together.


  2. Carmen
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 18:16:51

    I love what Lee Bird said about “one heart-turn” and “There but the grace of God go I.” The idea of the darkness in the hearts of those people scare me…the idea that they could be beyond redemption. I don’t know…passages such as this are never comforting to me. :( Sorry for being the downer, really.

    • mary kathryn tyson
      Jun 29, 2011 @ 18:36:39

      They’re not comforting to me, either, Carmen! Wasn’t sure I had much to contribute when it seemed so plain until I read it a few more times, asking the HS for clarity.

      Um, and…P.S…I am the worst blog-friend everrr! I owe you an email. I haven’t forgotten you. I need to write things down. Sheesh.


  3. onegirl4god
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 18:17:44

    Clearly we need some historical context from our resident history buff Melissa. When I read these passages Paul seems to be hinting at the Roman’s past behaviors in their society up to that point by referencing past behaviors by those that chose to worship something other than God himself. When I looked in Strong’s Concordance, there is no nuanced language here. Everything Paul says is straightforward and very clear. He is reproving the Romans who are clearly struggling to reconcile their society with this new way of thinking and behaving.

    Each one of has to lay down what we knew before to take up what we know now in God. Our culture and society changes within us to try and line up with God’s word but we still struggle with old habits and old ways of thinking. I know I do, even after being a Christian for so long. Can you shed more light Melissa?

    • mary kathryn tyson
      Jun 29, 2011 @ 19:56:52

      i think you’re right, stephanie – paul’s language is definitely not nuanced.

      what i’m getting at with the ‘what is he not saying?’ is that i think christians sometimes twist this passage into their own definition of sin and law instead of what paul is actually saying – which is that sin itself isn’t The Thing. (there’s more on this to come.) that there are those who have heard and been given an opportunity to know the truth and deliberately and defiantly walk away. as in, they haven’t accepted it in any capacity at all and make decisions to be wicked in their ways.

      for the rest of us, those who know truth but live imperfectly (and repentantly), even then we’re like paul {don’t do what i know i should do, do what i don’t want to do}.

      that’s all i meant. (i actually deleted the part in the beginning when i said, ‘um…wow…don’t have much to add here.’) he’s definitely clear. i just want to be sure we’re clear on what he’s clear about.

      and, yes, i didn’t want to put any pressure on melissa but i was hoping she would chime in, too. looking forward to the history lesson. :)

      thank you for looking up on strong’s, too.

      love you.


  4. Melissa
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 20:15:46

    I don’t think Paul is saying that sinners can’t repent. I seem to remember Paul going his own way zealously and killing Christians. He turned and followed Jesus. God is bigger than that.

    I also don’t think Paul is saying that Christians don’t sin. Rather he seems to warning against a hardened heart, that justifies what God has told them is wrong. We as humans can start thinking somethings are justifiable when really they are a trap of pride and darkness. Paul points this out later in Romans 12 about renewing one’s mind so that you can be able to test and approve what God’s will is. The people Paul is talking about here are those who have chosen their way even though they have heard that the gospel transforms and sets free. They instead have chosen bondage.

    It does make me mourn to think about those who do this. Who know God’s love, and the power of the gospel for salvation (v16) and still chose to live in unbelief rather than the righteousness that comes by faith (v 17) which leads in to Paul taking about God’s wrath in 18-32. God’s wrath= God turning away and giving man his own way.

  5. Junice
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 23:57:56

    Well this shall be my first comment here even though I’ve been following this study for the last few weeks. Mk- when I first read your question at the end, I had to go back and re-read the passage. I totally missed it at first. But then what was not there stood out so clearly. There is not a finality to their depraved state. He is not saying that they cannot return Christ. Rather that they choose not to.

    Yikes. It’s a bit frightening to read a litany of all that can and does go wrong when we decide that we know better than God and choose to walk away. But there is comfort in knowing that our choices, while providing consequences and pain in the short term, do not have to be our eternal reality.

    • mary kathryn tyson
      Jun 30, 2011 @ 00:03:03


      you got it. you got it exactly.

      exactly. our choices, when we know and love christ (and know his love for us), do not have to determine our eternal reality. it’s when we walk away all together and don’t come back. we choose it, not god. rather, he doesn’t spare his wrath on the ones who could have chosen differently but didn’t.

      i missed it at first, too. and then i re-read it, like you did. thank you for re-reading. i think we all get it now.


      p.s. i have not forgotten you, my friend. i hope to be in touch with you this weekend.

      • junice
        Jun 30, 2011 @ 09:37:33

        no worries friend:) it sounds like things on your end have been a whirlwind/hurricane/earthquake of crazy busy-ness.

  6. Carmen
    Jun 30, 2011 @ 07:58:49


    Thank-you. I can breathe now :) Love, Carmrn

  7. dougy
    Jul 01, 2011 @ 15:14:22

    I have taken my time in responding, taking the opportunity to read (and re-read) the passage and to read commentaries from my favorite online resource, the Christian Classics Ethereal Library (

    I think Paul is writing a cautionary tale of sin. He is showing how left unchecked sin can become appalling to the eye of the righteous. But it’s not being written to the heathen, but to “God’s beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints.” This makes the passage that much more interesting. Sinners don’t worry about their sin. But the church, the body of believers need to be self-aware of their sin, otherwise, it could be disastrous for the body.

    Reading this passage reminds me of the quote by Martin Luther: “Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong, but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world.” I pray that I can trust Christ more than I worry about my sin, even as I am conscious of the sin nature that still fights my flesh. I need not let that get in the way of serving and following Christ, because He is victorious over my sin, though his death and resurrection.

  8. Trackback: our secret lives. « beauty for ashes

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 547 other followers

%d bloggers like this: