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“God Gave Them Up” (Part 3 of 6)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
February 26, 2024 3:00 am

“God Gave Them Up” (Part 3 of 6)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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February 26, 2024 3:00 am

Moral collapse and the prevalence of sexual sin may seem like signs of the times, but the apostle Paul actually addressed these same concerns with the early church. Listen to Truth For Life as Alistair Begg walks us through Paul’s teaching on immorality.


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This listener-funded program features the clear, relevant Bible teaching of Alistair Begg. Today’s program and nearly 3,000 messages can be streamed and shared for free at thanks to the generous giving from monthly donors called Truthpartners. Learn more about this Gospel-sharing team or become one today. Thanks for listening to Truth For Life!

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Welcome to Truth for Life and as we get started today, just a heads up, if you're a parent with young children listening nearby, today's teaching from Romans chapter 1 contains material that may be too mature for young audiences. Alistair Begg is going to be unpacking what the Bible has to say about sexual immorality. If you think society's moral collapse and the prevalence of sexual sin is a sign of the times, you might be surprised to learn that the Apostle Paul addressed these same concerns with the early church.

Here's Alistair. Well, I invite you to turn to Romans and to chapter 1 and to verses 26 and 27, to which we come in the course of these studies, which we began with the great declaration of the gospel and of the salvation that is there in the gospel for everyone who believes. Verse 26 and 27, For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions, for their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature.

And the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. Father, as we turn to these verses, we ask for your grace, that the tenor of this truth, the tone of my voice, the response of our hearts—maybe that which is pleasing in your sight. And we ask it humbly in Jesus' name.

Amen. Well, let me begin with a straightforward statement. The moral disintegration of society provides visible evidence in the here and now of what Paul says in verse 18. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness. In other words, Paul says, Look at the world in which you live, look at it and see how messed up it is, and you will have plenty of evidence of the fact that God is angry. Not angry in the way that we are angry, where it's fitful and often unkind, but just the settled reaction of God's absolute holiness to our disinterest in him and the chaos which flows from that.

We've been learning in these studies that we live, actually, in a runaway world. We like to suggest, somehow or another, that God is hiding from us, but we actually come to realize that it is we who are hiding from him. We think we're very bright, but we suppress the truth—the truth that he has given. We deny the fact that he has made himself known clearly in the universe in which we live, that his divine power, his attributes, are seen. And as a result of that, we are absolutely without excuse when we choose not to worship him or to thank him. When we refuse to know God as he has made himself known, we don't give up on worship.

We actually just worship something else or someone else. And what becomes apparent is that when we have broken the connection between the Creator, who made us purposefully for himself that we might know him, love him, trust him, and follow him, that with the loss of a knowledge of him, which is a denial of him, we struggle to actually know who we are ourselves. This sounds like a funny thing to say, but it's not uncommon for people to say, Well, I'm looking for myself," or, I'm looking for the real me. In fact, there's a whole catalog of opportunities to go in the average bookstore and try and find out who you are.

And, of course, it's nothing new. One of my favorite songs from the seventies was written by Roger Hodgson. His mom and dad sent him away to boarding school for ten years to try and make some sense out of him. And it was out of that context in 79 that he wrote, When I was young, it seemed that life was so wonderful, a miracle. It was beautiful, magical.

And all the birds in the trees, they'd be singing so happily, joyfully, playfully, watching me. But then they sent me away to teach me how to be sensible, logical, responsible, practical. Then they showed me a world where I could be so dependable, clinical, intellectual, cynical. But there are times when all the world's asleep, the questions run too deep for such a simple man.

Won't you please, please tell me what we've learned? I know it sounds absurd, but please tell me who I am. Who am I? Who are you?

What are you, a collection of molecules held in suspension? It's a question. It's a question that is addressed in the Bible, and it's answered in the Bible. What Paul goes on to say is that when we refuse the light, then we descend into darkness. We worship the things that we've made.

It's an absolutely silly idea. In fact, he says, you've become futile in your thinking. And behind a façade of wisdom, what you're really doing, he says, is committing moral and intellectual suicide. That's why in verse 24, if your Bible is open, it says that God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to actually give themselves to the things that they had put in place of God. And because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie, instead of enjoying purity, they embraced uncleanness, and they began to dishonor their bodies among themselves.

Isn't that an interesting thing to say? God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, and then there was a kind of communal dishonoring of their bodies. Now, all of that brings us to verse 26. And I've done that for anybody who's visiting.

That was a summary of the last three studies. The people who were present for them said, I wish you'd done that earlier. We'd been home a lot earlier for lunch. But the fact is, you need something of that, because you're saying, How do you end up at verse 26 on this particular day? Well, we're here, because we were there before.

And so, here we have exchange number three. They've already been identified as exchanging the glory of God for things that creep and crawl. They've exchanged the truth of God for a lie. And now here we see that they exchanged the normal, natural function of human sexuality for that which is contrary. In fact, what we're discovering here in this 26th verse is that God has given them up to something which contemporary society regards as an alternative lifestyle, but which the Bible pronounces to be an abomination, to be a perversion. The matter of human sexuality as described and prescribed by Scripture is not just a difficult subject. It is also an unpopular subject, and it is in large measure one that is regarded as offensive.

This kind of reaction is not unusual. I was speaking at a college, a university, out on the west coast a few years ago now—maybe three, I can't remember—and I had the temerity to say, in the course of my address to these young people, that the only place for sexual intercourse was in a marriage between a man and a woman, a heterosexual, monogamous, lifelong marriage. And a great number of them all got up and walked out. And subsequently, they got in touch with me to say that my services would no longer be required again at that particular university. I'd spoken there for twelve successive years. But it's simply saying, this is what the Bible says.

It was over. So, in coming to this this morning, I come to it fearful in many ways. I come to it with caution, with, I hope, a measure of compassion, but also with conviction—the conviction that God's Word is absolutely perfect, that God's way is absolutely perfect, that God knew exactly what he was doing, what he put us together, the way he put us together, and that anything that runs foul of that runs foul of God's intentions. And Paul is actually describing the consequences of the world when it refuses to worship God as he is. And some people, when they read this, think that Paul was exaggerating the case, that somehow or another he was taking a perspective on Roman culture that was esoteric, that was unique to him, that other people who didn't believe what he believed would see it differently. But history actually refutes that notion. A historian points out, there is nothing that Paul said that Roman writers had not already said—namely, that society from top to bottom was riddled with unnatural vice, and that fourteen out of the first fifteen Roman emperors were themselves homosexuals. So the idea somehow or another that Paul is just sort of sidling up to this is not a case. In fact, he's very courageous, I think, to write as he does.

And one needs a measure of courage to report what it is he said. The link is clear between idolatry and moral degeneracy. They refuse to believe in God, they refuse to worship God, and impiety leads to immorality, and the immorality gets deeper as it goes.

In other words, what the Bible says is that God's judgment is in handing men and women over to lives which are disordered and lives which are dishonorable. In other words, when our longings are no longer filled by God, who has made us for himself, the longings don't go away. The longings then have to be satisfied.

I've got to satisfy the answer about my identity. I've got to satisfy the answer for the longings of my heart, for peace, for fulfillment, for joy, for satisfaction, for sexual fulfillment, whatever it might be. And in the course of that, the immorality is a revelation of the idolatry. The circumstances that are described here are symptomatic of idol worship. And all of us are involved in idol worship. We don't have little things on our desks, probably, but we know what it is to worship other things—to worship ourselves, first of all. I'm the captain of my ship, I'm the champion of my destiny, nobody's gonna tell me what I'm supposed to do, I'll make my own decisions, I've got my own ethics, I'll plan things the way I want to plan. That's sufficient.

That's enough. That's idolatry. That's the autonomous self. We can also worship fame, we can also worship satisfaction, we can also worship sex, we can also worship money, we can also worship our intellect. There is no end to it. We're capable of producing idols like nobody's business. And that idolatry is revealed in immorality.

It's important you understand that. Why is America in the mess it's in? Because we worship Baal's.

Because we don't worship the true and living God. Super Baal Sunday is an amazing illustration of what really turns America on. And the halftime show is as good an illustration of the degenerate nature of our longings and our enjoyments. You say, Oh, you're an old funny daddy. I admit to that freely.

That's okay. But no, he says, they exchanged the glory of God for crawling things, they exchanged the truth for a lie, and now they exchanged natural sexual intercourse for what is unnatural. Notice, for their women exchanged natural relations with those that are contrary to nature.

The words that he uses here are actually female and male. It's an echo, and a deliberate echo, I think, on Paul's part, of Genesis chapter 1, where we read, So God created man, qua man, humanity. God created man in his own image. In the image of God he created him, humanity, Adam. Male and female he created them. And Paul immediately picks this up, and he says, Even those who were made female.

In fact, in the King James Version, it uses that little word even. It says, for even the women. Even the women. Why does it say even the women?

Hodge, an earlier commentator, suggests that the reason for Paul addressing the degradation of women first is because, quote, They are always the last to be affected in the decay of morals, and their corruption is therefore proof that all virtue is lost. It's an interesting thought. I'm not sure he would say the same thing if he were alive today, because things have shifted dramatically since he wrote that commentary.

And I think we could talk about that for a while, but we won't. Be clear as well that when Paul uses natural here versus unnatural, he is describing the world as God made it. Don't allow yourself the luxury of saying, Well, I have to decide what natural means for me. Now, natural refers to how God made the world. And again, Paul is not saying something unusual. If you read, which you do, you'll discover that Plato, whose name you know, described females uniting with females as contrary to nature.

What does he mean by that? He means the natural material order as God made men and women. The Stoics—you remember the Stoics and the Epicureans? When Paul addresses them in Acts chapter 17, the Stoics taught that the proper use of objects was according to nature.

I'm not gonna delineate objects for you, okay? But what they're actually saying is, there's a place for everything and everything in its place. And when you wanna know what you do with those objects, well, then, you do it according to nature. And failure to follow common sense and the inner law of one's being was, said the Stoics, against nature. It is not an alternative lifestyle. It is an unnatural decision. It is an expression of rebellion against God.

I will decide who I am, what I am, what I'm doing, and with whom I am doing it. That is where it finds itself. The material shape of the created order is there for observation. Anatomy, physiology, biology—all of them, without theology, testify to God's perfect plan, which, when violated, leads to chaos, to sadness, and to despair. Let me just give to you a quote here that will stagger you a little bit, and that's okay. But this is a professor of psychiatry from Case. And I read—I have a piece, I have it here, actually, from 1991, when I found this professor.

And I think he's retired now. So this is a doctor. Homosexuality is another psychosocial epiphenomenon, accompanying an unnatural, first-learned, then-preferred method of orgasm created in an oversexualized subculture or in a culture where nature is ignored. Homosexuality is a learned, feigned set of behaviors that become automatic. These sets of behaviors introduce, rationalize, reinforce, and support an overenthusiastic addiction to orgasm which is unrecognized as merely a simple physiologic reflex. It begins with the universal doubts of oneself in childhood, the doubts never resolving but merging with identity, to become a learned way of life, sexualized to orgasm, without gender consideration, therefore met most readily by others with the same set of behaviors, and then the whole charade, covered over by a label, homosexuality for one, which the affected styles accompanying the label.

With the affected styles accompanying the label. Now, that is not some crazy fundamentalist from down in the South. That's a professor of psychiatry. I'm sure he couldn't last very long making those statements.

Probably retired when he should. I don't know. But there you have it. For even the women are natural. Verse 27, and the men likewise. He's more detailed here when he comes to the men. I wonder if Paul had in mind when he came to this matter what he says when he writes in Ephesians 5 about it is a shame or a shameful thing even to speak of the things that they do in secret. It is a shameful thing to speak of the things they do in secret. And I'm not about to speak of the things they do in secret.

But at the same time, we have to be prepared to acknowledge what is done in secret. Everything is glossed over. Everything is beautiful. Everything is, this is the way it should possibly be.

This is time for rainbows and kisses and bows on ponies and everything. Have you ever had one of your friends arrested in a cinema in Soho because he went there to engage in an illicit sexual encounter with anybody that was present? I have. Have you read the book Philomena and read there of the unfolding drama of pain and sadness and anger and disappointment and pain that is embedded in the personal testimony of the fellow who was the son of Philomena who had given him up for adoption in the convent in the south of Ireland fifty years before she tracks him down and she finds him?

I mention it only because of the honesty that is contained in that book and the sadness, because it all takes place right along the time that AIDS was first encountered, that HIV was first discovered, and the story is right at the heart of that. Now, Paul, two thousand years before, is describing the situations that were prevalent in both Greek and Roman culture. They gave up natural relations. In other words, they made a decision, a choice.

They gave up the possibilities there, and they were consumed with passion for one another. To see this, to propound this, is immediately to be regarded as harsh or judgmental or bigoted. But the Bible is really clear, loved ones. Homosexuality is unnatural. It's a violation of God's created order.

It's not the greatest sin, but it is the clearest evidence of a society's defiance of God. When a culture finally reaches this place, where now even manhood and womanhood, gender itself, is deconstructed and reconstructed according to whatever agenda the individual has, whatever ethical set of norms they've decided to embrace, then the culture is in deep trouble. When you live in a society that's got more concern for its animals than it's got for children in the womb, you're living in a putrefying culture. When you live in a culture where men and women are unclear as to why they were made, how they were made, who made them, and what they're supposed to be doing, and allow them to do whatever they choose, you're living in a really, really weird place. Christopher Ash in his book Remaking Our Broken World quotes J. D. Unwin, who studied 86 different societies spanning 5,000 years, and he found an unexpected and direct correlation between sexual continence and the ability of a society to grow and remain healthy. He concluded, In human records there is no instance of a society retaining its energy after a complete new generation has inherited a tradition which does not insist on prenuptial and postnuptial continence. Verse 32, And they not only do them, but they give approval to those who practice them. That's exactly where it is. You're listening to Truth for Life, and that is Alistair Begg showing us the connection between idolatry and immorality.

We'll hear more on this tomorrow. In this study in Romans chapter 1, we are seeing that the wrath of God is revealed against ungodliness. And the book we want to recommend to you today is a book that examines this topic in more depth. The book is titled Death in the City, and it looks at the reality that we live in a post-Christian world.

That means that many of our friends and neighbors are increasingly indifferent toward God, maybe even antagonistic. This is a book that was written to motivate all of us to adopt the mindset of the Apostle Paul to not be ashamed of the Gospel, to share it widely with those who will perish if they remain outside of Christ. Request your copy of the book Death in the City today when you donate to support the ministry of Truth for Life. You can give through our mobile app or online at slash donate. I'm Bob Lapine. So how do we honor God and yet respond compassionately to those who are choosing to live an ungodly lifestyle? We'll have the answer tomorrow. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-02-26 08:00:24 / 2024-02-26 08:08:57 / 9

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