Does this not sound like a slice of Exodus 32? These passages teach us a principle: We cannot imagine God in terms of what He has materially created because what He has made is not God.
In the process that ends in idolatry, the first thing a person loses is his sense of awe, his reverential fear toward the majesty of God. This is what Paul means by "became futile in their thoughts." The result is that the person's former high standards concerning virtually everything begin to slip, and this corruption in turn gives birth to perversion. Romans 1:26-32 provides a partial list of these perversions.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Seeking God (Part One): Our Biggest Problem
The first commandment concerns itself with what a person worships. Worship is the devoted service one gives to what one regards above all, and what one regards above all is that person's God. The first commandment says what we are to worship, the Creator God. Nothing else is to be given that kind of devotion.
As this verse shows, one can give devoted service to created things as well as the Creator. The people Paul is speaking of turned their attention from the Creator and to the created. It is possible to worship the wrong thing. In Colossians 3:5 Paul writes that covetousness is idolatry too, clearly meaning that our devotion can be given to things other than the true God.
There is a common argument in the world that "all religions are good," that is, none of them teach you bad things. But, as these verses prove, that simply is not true.
Paul argues that God gave these people up—literally, that God abandoned them to uncleanness. Therefore, any religion other than the one true one is a curse! It is a kind of punishment. These people that Paul describes exchanged the truth for the lie. How can that be good?
Here, the lie is that someone or something other than the true God can be properly worshipped and be effective for the person's salvation. Worshipping things other than the Creator turns the thrust and the direction of our lives off the true path of God's purpose. Though those objects that individuals give all of their time, attention, and devotion to may be otherwise harmless in themselves, it is sin to give them that devotion because it is "missing the mark," which is sin.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 1)
Beginning with the fact that mankind generally shows no fear of God, Romans 1:24-25 illuminates how this lack of respect for Him has produced what we now observe in the world every day.
In examining the central issue of the first few commandments, we find that the first concerns what we worship. These verses in Romans 1 recap what the first commandment forbids, the worship of someone or something other than the Creator. Worship is the devoted service that an individual gives to what he regards above all. It is most assuredly not restricted to activity done on only one day of the week. As verse 25 shows, a person can give devoted service to created things as well as to the Creator. In addition, Paul observes in Colossians 3:5 that covetousness is also idolatry, amplifying the fact that a person can give unlawful respect and thus devotion to things other than the Creator God.
We have all heard the argument that "all religions are good," but this is simply not true. Based on what it produces as a way of life in countries where it dominates, is militant Islam good? Are this world's many variations of what is called Christianity good? This world's religions can be evaluated as good or bad only in relation to each other. Not one of them is good when evaluated against Jesus' religion, the one He passed on to the apostles.
Paul's argument in Romans 1 is that God abandoned to uncleanness those addressed as idolaters. The term "uncleanness" indicates immorality and strongly implies sexual immorality. Based on these few verses, the conclusion is that any religion other than the true one is in reality a curse—actually, in some ways a punishment—even though it may occasionally produce some good effects!
The context pinpoints their sin in verse 25: "They exchanged the truth for the lie." Notice the definite articles. Here, God and His way is "the truth," and the people's idolatryis"the lie." How can that be good? Paul is showing that only the Creator God can be worshipped profitably. Worshipping someone or some thing other than the Creator subtly turns the thrust and direction of a person's life off the true path of God's purpose because the source of the authority permitting or guiding his conduct is not the true God. Even though the object of devotion may be otherwise harmless, it is sin to give it that level of respect because it absolutely cannot produce anything good toward God's purpose.
Recall that idolatry is a sin whose fruit is almost never immediately seen. It is like a cancer that destroys by slow increments. Life's direction and any course corrections must come from within one's relationship with the Creator God. The wrong source will lead one astray. Clearly, properly keeping the first commandment requires a great deal of soul-searching evaluation of the true value of what we hold dear.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment
In this passage, Paul gives a brief but appalling overview of the effect of people turning their backs on the Creator God. Mankind has worshipped the creation more than the Creator, and thus, God gave mankind over to vile affections and to a mind devoid of true judgment—his own natural mind. Since man's experiences shaped his judgment regarding conduct, his ability to judge truth became vague and led to the horrible perversions Paul lists. Today, the world groans with the weight of bearing the fruit of this idolatry.
Our own personal experience confirms the validity of these verses. Paul lists the consequences of a purely secular mind, which resulted from leaving the True Source of right standards out of our lives. He shows that when we follow the path described, we not only lose godliness but also true humanity.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Second Commandment (1997)
What are the results of rejecting God?
1. Uncleanness, meaning moral impurity;
2. Longing or desiring, especially what is forbidden;
3. Disgracing each other by mutual consent, meaning unlawful and impure connections with one another. Verse 24 contemplates not just a perversion of sex—homosexuality—but any use of it outside of God's law, such as fornication.
Paul describes more of what rejecting God leads to:
For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. (verses 26-27)
Should we be shocked at the explosion of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in today's world? God tells those that reject Him that such diseases are fitting penalties for the wrong use of sex. Mankind has tried to "advance beyond consequences" in this area by advocating "safe-sex" through the use of contraceptives. However, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently admitted that condoms do not prevent the transmission of most STDs. Mankind cannot outsmart God!
David C. Grabbe
What Evolution Really Means
In examining the central issue in each of the first several commandments, we find that the first concerns what we worship. Worship is the devoted service one gives to what he regards most highly. As these verses show, we can give devoted service to created things as well as the Creator. Additionally, the tenth commandment says covetousness is idolatry too (Colossians 3:5), clearly amplifying that we can give our devotion to things other than the true God.
How good can it be to exchange the truth for the lie? In this context "the lie" is that one can profitably worship someone or something other than the true God. Worshipping things other than the Creator turns the thrust and direction of our lives off the true path of God's purpose. Though those objects may be otherwise harmless in themselves, it is sin to give them the devotion that rightly belongs to the Creator.
John 4:24 proclaims that those who worship God must worship Him in spirit and truth. The worship of God involves the totality of our life, and therefore it cannot be confined to a particular location or a mere hour or two on a given day. Our worship must be guided, motivated, and empowered by His Spirit. Further, it cannot merely be sincere, but it must also be true. Attitude is extremely important, but it alone does not replace truth.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part One) (1997)
The apostle's words are playing out openly in our daily news as marriage loses its traditional value in this society. In this passage, Paul describes the current generation—how men have rejected God's will and supplanted it with gross idolatry and how they have become lovers of themselves, exalting the creation and their desires above the Creator. With this foundation and with God allowing mankind to pursue its own course for the present, human nature desires to remake all of God's institutions in its own image, and the marriage covenant is in its cross-hairs.
Marriage and family are the foundations of any healthy society, and these two bedrocks of civilization are slowly being dismantled before our eyes. When these foundations, which God formed in righteousness, are weakened further, it will prepare for a different foundation—one formed in unrighteousness to support the coming of the lawless one, the son of perdition, as II Thessalonians 2:3-10 foretells.
Marriage and family were undefiled when God gave them as a gift to mankind before sin entered the world. In Genesis 2:18, God enacted the first social foundation for mankind: "And the LORD God said, 'It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.'" Then, in verse 24, God sanctifies Adam's relationship with Eve by declaring that the two would be joined together as one flesh, that a man and his wife should leave mother and father, cling to each other, and become their own family unit. In other words, marriage was dignified and defined by God as a joining of one man and one woman.
Why did God do it this way? He could have just kept on creating one man after another to populate the earth. It was unlikely that He would run out of the dust of the earth. However, He made them male and female for a reason.
The prophet Malachi reveals a major reason why God created man and woman to become one flesh. The answer is part of God's castigation of Judah for tolerating easy divorce laws. In Malachi 2:11, He says that by doing so, the Jews had profaned the holy institution of marriage that God so dearly loves.
Yet you say, "For what reason [are you angry]?" Because the LORD has been witness between you and the wife of your youth, with whom you have dealt treacherously; yet she is your companion and your wife by covenant. But did He not make them one, having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth. "For the LORD God of Israel says that He hates divorce, for it covers one's garment with violence," says the LORD of hosts. (Malachi 2:14-16)
Because He wants godly children, God made humans male and female. Within the structure of a proper, married family life, strong in unity and free from worries of separation, it would produce the best results.
From this comes a second reason why God made them male and female. With the blessing of children, God has bestowed on mankind the gift of allowing parents to become His partners in His creative works by rearing children who are prepared to answer His calling. This spiritual reproductive process will one day bring many sons and daughters into God's Family. This realization places families and marriage far above what most in the world consider them to be. It elevates them to a moral level unrecognizable in this world of sin.
The wisdom and depths of love that God has for mankind are beyond our abilities to know fully, but it is clear that marriage and family are prominent in God's plan. Any changes to the divine structure are an affront to God and His plan. Marriage is of divine origin, and changes to it are nothing less than man's rebellion against his Creator.
The Sacredness of Marriage
Most of this world's holidays are based on fables, myths, and lies, while the Christian is commanded to worship God "in spirit and in truth." A true Christian does not lie and does not associate with lies, but seeks after truth in all aspects of life. If we live with a little lie now, then it is much easier to live with a worse lie later. God is emphatic on this point: A liar will not enter the Kingdom of God (Revelation 21:7-8).
Martin G. Collins
Commandment breakers suppress the truth to avoid admitting they are wrong. The human mind reasons that it is easier to lie than to live God's way, which they view as oppressive. But by lying, they become slaves to sin and Satan, the father of lies.
Martin G. Collins
The Ninth Commandment
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Romans 1:24:
2 Thessalonians 2:3
2 Thessalonians 2:9-12
2 Thessalonians 2:11-12
2 Timothy 2:14-17
2 Timothy 4:4
2 Timothy 4:4
1 John 2:15-17