“God Gave Them Up” — Part Three
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“God Gave Them Up” — Part Three

Romans 1:28–32  (ID: 3577)

The beautiful world that God created is broken by sin that legislation and education can’t fix. In his letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul taught that when people refuse to acknowledge the Lord’s reign, He gives them over to their own debased minds. Standards disappear, society crumbles, and moral chaos and wickedness ensue. Cautioning against the inclination to judge and admonish others, Alistair Begg encourages us instead to confess our self-righteousness, recall what we were like apart from Christ, and lovingly proclaim the news of God’s salvation.

Series Containing This Sermon

God’s Power for Salvation

Gospel Hope for a Romans 1 World Romans 1:16–32 Series ID: 28801

Sermon Transcript: Print

I invite you to turn to Romans and to chapter 1 and to follow along as I read just the concluding verses of Romans chapter 1, from verse 28:

“And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.”


We have acknowledged our need of you, and as we come to the Bible, we realize, Lord, that this is a living book—that we seek to understand it in the awareness that it actually understands us. And it manages, in all the nooks and crannies of our rebellious hearts, to penetrate and convict us and convince us and assure us of your love. And so we pray that that may be true as we look at these verses now. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Well, we come to the third of these “God gave them up” statements. We have already noticed that there are three times where an exchange takes place, which we’ll note. But on three occasions, Paul uses this particular phrase, “God gave them up,” to describe a single divine action. We ought not to think of this in terms of a temporal progression, but rather, he reiterates this one thing that God has done as it finds expression in these various ways.

So, we’ve been learning that in creation, God has made sufficient of himself known to all of us as his creation so as to leave us without any excuse for not honoring him and praising him and giving him the glory that he deserves. We’ve also discovered, however, that because of who and what we are, we suppress the truth about God. We don’t want to actually believe in God. Our inclinations are anti-God. And when we recognize that, we realize that it is simply expressed actually from kindergarten all the way through life: that we don’t really like anybody telling us what to do, that we don’t really want anybody ordering our lives. We would like to be the champions of our own destiny, the captain of our own ship, the organizers of all that is before us.

And so, the Bible says that on account of our rebellious status, we are inescapably guilty. You’ll find as you review the text, he says, “And so we are without excuse.[1] We can’t say, ‘You haven’t made yourself known,’ because you have. And since you’ve made yourself known in all of this grandeur, we’re beginning to recognize that what we’re doing is exactly what the Bible says we’re doing.”

So, we are inescapably guilty, and God at the same time is legitimately angry. It’s some time since we looked at verse 18, and some stumbled over the idea of “the wrath of God.” And we tried to make sure that we understood this is not some kind of fitful outburst akin to human anger and aggression, but rather, it is the settled response of an entirely holy God to all that runs up against his provision and his purpose for humanity. In many ways, it’s the kind of anger that a cancer specialist feels against that which is ravaging his patient or her patient. It’s the kind of inevitable anger that a father would feel towards that which was ravaging and destroying his son or his daughter vis-à-vis drugs or whatever it might be: a necessary and understandable revulsion to that which is causing deterioration and sadness.

And it’s in that respect that all of these “God gave them ups” as expressions of his wrath are really simultaneously expressions of his love. The worst thing would be if God was indifferent—if God simply said, “Well, go ahead and do whatever you want to do; it doesn’t matter to me at all.” But it matters very, very much to God. And that is why he has set a day of judgment. And Paul is making clear that that day will come, but he has also executed his judgment in the here and now, and that judgment of God in the here and now is there in the moral chaos of the culture to which Paul writes—which, of course, for him was first-century Rome.

J. B. Phillips, in his paraphrase of verses 25–32, has a heading, which I hadn’t noticed until this week. But his heading over verses 25–32 is simply this: “The fearful consequence[s] of deliberate atheism.” I think that’s a very good heading. “The fearful consequence[s] of deliberate atheism”—the choice that has been made; the exchanges.

Exchange number one: you’ll see it there. Where is it? In verse 23: they “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for things that creep and crawl.”[2] Such a silly idea, isn’t it? That you make a little god, and then you talk to the god that you have made as if the god that you have made could ever do anything for you, whatever the god might be—the god of ambition, the god of whatever. Imagine going home in the evening and saying, “Dear god, could you please help me?” Then you say to yourself, “This is ridiculous. I made this thing! How could it ever do anything?” That’s what he said: they exchanged the truth of God, the glory of God.

And “they exchanged … truth … for a lie.”[3] And that’s exactly what happens, isn’t it? One of the great lies of our day is that there is really no truth at all, and all we have to do is respect each other’s truth. Sounds very enlightened, but of course, it’s not enlightened at all. Objectivity has left town. Logic has left town with it, in a world where anything goes.

And then they exchanged God-ordered sexuality for that which runs counter to God’s plan and purpose in natural relationships. And that was last time, in 26 and 27.

Now, Paul goes on to say that this is not the total expression of God’s judgment as it is revealed in a society or in a culture. Because the whole picture involves far more than these expressions of same-sex erotic desire, which is 26 and 27. He recognized that that had made a ravaging impact on the Roman culture. And one of the things I think we’ve discovered is that although this was written to first-century Rome, it is so amazingly up to date in twenty-first-century America. That is because it is the Word of God. And if he was aware of that in Rome, we are, if we’re honest, aware of the fact that that same kind of preoccupation has a center stage in large segments of our contemporary culture, not least of all in education, in the media, and in various ways as well.

Why did Paul actually start with that in verses 26 and 27? Why did he go immediately there, to disordered lifestyles? I think it is probably because although what he’s addressing is not the greatest sin, it is the clearest expression in a culture of disordered affection. When a culture turns its back on God, turns into itself and decides, “I’m going to do whatever I want to do,” then here it reaches, if you like, the bottom line. But the behavior, as we saw—and I need to keep reiterating this—the behavior as expressed is not the root of the problem; the behavior is the result of the exchanges that have been made, the consequence of making these decisions. And it is to this consequence that we now come in relationship to “a debased mind.”

Now, as he moves on to this, as I’ve noticed in listening to people and in reading myself, I realize that in these further expressions of what is essentially a culture in decay, what he’s pointing out is that God’s response in wrath—his judicial abandonment, if you like—is revealed equally in the antisocial dimensions as well as in the sensual dimensions. So he has dealt, if you like, in 26 and 27 with human sexuality and sensuality that has gone wrong, that has turned itself literally upside down. And when he goes on to say what he now says in the lists that we’re about to see, we ought not to think that somehow or another that is because he wants to deaden the impact of verses 26 and 27, the way some people like to teach it: “Well, I know he says something about that, but after all, look at this.” And the inference is “Look at this” means that doesn’t really matter. No, that matters a tremendous amount, and the “Look at this” is in order in part to confront us with our own self-righteousness.

Because when you look at this list, you realize how it is very easy not only to say “Look at them” à la 26 and 27 but “Look at them” à la 28–32—which is exactly the reaction of the Jewish people, because homosexuality was regarded by the Jews as absolutely abhorrent. It was regarded as a gentile problem. And Paul recognizes that. And so, if your Bible is open, you can see that immediately then in chapter 2, he goes to the religious people—the people who are tempted to say, “Look at that!”—he says,

Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God?[4]

You see what he’s saying? He’s recognizing… And Paul knew this, because before he was converted, he was a Pharisee. Before he was converted, he was a religious zealot. Before he was converted, he hated the idea of Christians, hated the notion of Jesus, didn’t believe in him at all. When he writes to the Philippians, he says, “You know, when it came to keeping the law, I was pretty well faultless. But then I discovered I wasn’t at all.”[5]

So it’s not as if he’s just laying this down on these people. He understands it for himself. We have to be very, very careful in reading this that we don’t adopt the position of the Pharisee in Luke chapter 18, whereby we breathe deeply, and we say to ourselves, “Well, I thank you that I’m not like this fellow. I thank you that I’m not like that person. After all, look at all the good things that I do, and look at all the bad things that I’ve stopped doing. I’m just a tremendous chap,” or “I’m a super girl”—whatever it might be. “Well, hey, hang on a minute,” he says. “Let me tell you what we’re dealing with here.”

There is no dimension of human existence that is unaffected by sin. Sin is a condition before it is ever an action.

“Since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind.” “To a debased mind.” In other words, they decided that they were too high and mighty to acknowledge God in the everyday ins and outs of human activity.

Now, that’s not a bizarre thought, is it? You take the general population in which we live. You don’t usually go into restaurants and see people bowing down in prayer. The only people that I see at the motorway stops that are having a prayer meeting are actually Muslims getting out of their coach and kneeling in the grass en masse. You don’t see many Christians doing this. We don’t really see the acknowledgment of God in the great benefits that are enjoyed, because we tend to be, by nature, just self-congratulatory: “Didn’t we do this? Haven’t we achieved this?” and so on.

And so God says, “Well, you know, since you think you’re so above me, I’m actually going to make you prisoners of your own supposed freedom. That which you call freedom will become a prison to you.” And you will notice: “since they did not see fit to acknowledge God”—that they didn’t want to give him a place. You look back to verse 21: “Although they knew God, they did not honor him. They didn’t give thanks to him. Their thinking became futile, and their hearts were darkened”[6]—just unable to take God into the reckoning of things.

In other words, a view of the world that excludes God. A view of the world that excludes God. It’s not a Psalm 139 view of the world: “O Lord, you have searched me. You know me. You made me. You put me together in my mother’s womb.”[7] No, this is entirely antithetical to Psalm 139. This is a view of the world that starts “Time plus matter plus chance. I exist. I don’t know why. I don’t know where I’m going. I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t know if it really matters.” The fearful consequences of practical atheism.

How did it get like this? “Since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind”—to an anti-God mind. All right? Sin, you see, doesn’t leave our rational faculties alone. This is a very important thing. When we talk about depravity, when we talk about total depravity, we don’t mean that everybody’s as bad as they could possibly be. The Bible doesn’t mean that. What it means is that there is no dimension of human existence that is unaffected by sin. Sin is a condition before it is ever an action. And so our minds are affected. And in fact, God says, “I gave them over to a debased mind.”

In other words—and this is something you’ll have to think out on your own; I don’t want to tease it out any further—but the fact of the matter is that all human thought operates from a position of hostility towards God. That’s what the Bible says: that a fleshly mind, a carnal mind, an anti-God mind is simply against God. So we shouldn’t be surprised when people say, “Well, I don’t see that God made the universe.” Well, of course you don’t see. “Well, I don’t believe that it really matters whether there were ten thousand ‘legal killings’ in our North American neighbors in the last twelve months—ten thousand people into eternity—by means of euthanasia.” How do you get to that? Well, because it doesn’t matter. You’re not going anywhere in any case. You haven’t come from anywhere in the first place. You’re not really enjoying being in here, so why don’t we just get pragmatic about things? You say to yourself, “How does somebody think like that? How can you put so many pictures on the screens and show how many babies are snatched of their mothers’ wombs?” And people say, “What’s your problem? Why are you so annoyed with people? Why are you so angry about everything?” I don’t think it’s anger. I think it’s sadness.

He “gave them up to a debased mind.” The distortions of sin result in the fact that we think crookedly. That doesn’t mean that people are not able to think, but it means that the perspective from which they think is affected by sin. And so we live in a culture where the only hymn we really sing is “Anything Goes.”[8] And anything goes. So if anything goes, who’s to say what ought not to be done? Just look at the phrase: he “gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.”

You see, when oughtness goes—when oughtness evaporates in a culture or in a society… You understand what I mean by oughtness? Like, when I was a boy, I’m traveling on the bus in Glasgow. And the lady says, opposite me, “Take your feet off the seat. You ought not to do that.” Or, “Take care of that; you ought to do that,” or, “You ought not to do that.” We understand that. But when oughtness goes in a culture, what are you going to do with it? There’s only two ways we can fix it. One is by legislation, and one is by domination.

So you go to the little league game. And at the little league game, one of the fathers gets rather steamed up about it, as I’ve noticed has happened, and he begins actually to exercise his democratic privileges as he understands it by just cussing out at the kids. And somebody says to him, “Hey, hey, you ought not to do that.” And he says, “Don’t tell me what I ought to do! I’ll punch your nose.” So what are you going to do? Because next week it’ll be even worse. Well, what we’ll have to do is we’ll have to go to the local court, and we’ll have to see if we can legislate that anybody who swears within the framework of the two soccer pitches, or whatever else it is, is going to be removed from the community. Or you could just do what you ought to do!

He “gave them [over] to a debased mind,” so that they would not do what they ought to do. Peterson wonderfully paraphrases this, and I think it comes across: he says, “Since they didn’t bother to acknowledge God, God quit bothering them and let them run loose. And then all hell broke loose.”[9] I think that’s pretty accurate. What does it look like when we deliberately eliminate God? Well, here’s the answer. You can see it. We’ve already seen it in 26 and 27. Now from 28–31: look at this.

Essentially, the bottom line is that when a culture eliminates God, standards disappear, and society crumbles. Standards disappear, and society crumbles. I mean, it’s not just a product of being old that we’re able to look at the morning news and say, “Goodness gracious, how did we ever get here?” Children are saying the same thing, actually. They recognize it. This is not a safe place. What has happened?

Well, look at this ugly catalog: 28 sets it up, and then 29 all the way to 31. It’s not pleasant reading, is it? It’s really a social pathology. What it’s doing is it’s describing the pervasive moral chaos—or, if you like, immoral chaos—that is an inevitable dimension of a society that seeks to dismantle their knowledge of God. It’s a collective experience, you will notice: “They were filled…” This is not the description of an individual. “They were filled…” “They,” “they,” “they.” They were full, or “They are full of envy.” If you like, this is just an overflowing reality. There are a number of lists like this in Paul’s letters. This is the longest of them. There are twenty-one aspects in this. We’re not going to go through them; it wouldn’t be very good. But let me read it again for you, just so we’ve got this list clear in our minds. Let me read it in Phillips’s paraphrase:

Moreover, since they considered themselves too high and mighty to acknowledge God, he allowed them to become … slaves of their degenerate minds, and to perform unmentionable deeds. They became filled with wickedness, rottenness, greed and malice; their minds became steeped in envy, murder, quarrelsomeness, deceitfulness and spite. They became whisperers-behind-doors…

That’s pretty good, isn’t it? Gossips: “Hey, did you… Did you…”

… whisperers-behind-doors, [and] stabbers-in-the-back [slanderers], God-haters … overflow[ing] with insolent pride and boastfulness, and their minds teemed with diabolical invention.

You know, we say it humorously, but it’s not actually very humorous when we say, you know, if many of the criminals had gone into, you know, becoming policemen, then it’d be a safer place, because they seem to have an unlimited ability to come up with new ways of doing naughty things, of doing really bad stuff. That’s what he said here: “Their minds teemed with diabolical invention.”

“They scoffed at duty to [their] parents.” That doesn’t seem like much, but that was foundational in Roman culture. And it used to be foundational certainly in British culture and in American culture. But when a debased mind takes hold, parents don’t know who they are, children don’t care who they are, and there’s no saying where it ends up. “They scoffed at duty to [their] parents, they mocked at learning”—in other words, they became foolish—they “recognised no obligations of honour,” they “lost all natural affection, and had no use for mercy.”[10] Wow! That sounds like I just was watching the news.

Now, the attempts of people to categorize this… I don’t think this is a comprehensive statement. It’s not exhaustive. It’s selective. I don’t think Paul would have had to sit around and think about it for very long; it just flowed right off the end of his pen. But it may well be, as with other—like in 2 Timothy, where you have the list where he says, you know, “In the last days, men will be lovers of themselves,” and it ends up, “rather than lovers of God,”[11] and then you’ve got this sandwich in between “loving yourself instead of loving God,” and then all these other things fit in between. So, “unrighteousness” here, variably translated “wickedness,” might be regarded as the genus, if you like, of the entire list. I mean, you can read it on your own and make your own decisions. But without working your way through it—and you can diagram it in any way you choose—he is simply pointing out that the thing is broken. Broken. That the beautiful world that God has made is broken by sin. Legislation can’t fix it. Education can’t fix it. Morality is entirely rooted in God. And so when God is removed and he in his wrath, responding to rebellion, gives a society over to its own endeavors, then this ought not to be a surprise to us.

And there is nothing new in this. The ’60s was supposed to be the great transformative era, at least in the twentieth century. And I was thinking about it just this week, because of the Christmas carols. Because in the early material of Paul Simon, in The Paul Simon Songbook and then in the early albums of Simon and Garfunkel, you find an interesting selection of music. In The Paul Simon Songbook, he does “Go tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere.” In Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme, he and Garfunkel sing “Silent Night,” and they sing “Silent Night” straight. Simon was once asked, “Was there ever a song that somebody wrote that you would wish you had written?” He said, “Yes, ‘Silent Night.’” The person said to him, “But that was never a hit.” He says, “Yes, it was a hit.” Nineteen thirty-five, Bing Crosby had a number-one hit in America singing “Silent Night.” There’s a little history for you.

And the “Silent Night” song done by them was sung over a voiceover by a deejay who was reading the seven o’clock news. Okay? Now, I have the script, but I’m not going to use it. But as they were singing “Silent night, holy night, all is calm,” you can hear the guy’s voice going, “Today the war in Vietnam has escalated further. Richard Speck in Chicago was arraigned on the murder of nine nurses in an apartment in Chicago.” (“Silent night.”) “Martin Luther is determined that he will continue his march to such-and-such.” (“Holy night.”) “Lenny Bruce has died of an overdose at the age of forty-two.”

The beautiful world that God has made is broken by sin. Legislation can’t fix it. Education can’t fix it. Morality is entirely rooted in God.

Now, what were they doing? Well, actually, they were acknowledging this strange reality: that humanity has the capacity to be an angel and an ape—without being unkind to the apes, you know? That the same ability that we have to take our advances in technology and do things that are amazingly good, we have the same capacity to take and do the reverse.

And that is the point that Paul is making here at the beginning of Romans. He’s saying straightforwardly, “Impiety, ungodliness, leads to idolatry, and idolatry leads to immorality, and when immorality is given free rein and it takes hold, there is no saying where it will go. And in that context, a whole host of other dimensions will be seen for what they are.” So, man rejects God, and he replaces beauty with ugliness.

I have to resist the temptation to illustrate from contemporary life. You think about the artwork that was done here in Ohio in the last two decades—absolute filth by any standards at all, you know: the graphic art of the homosexual fellow who had all kinds of dreadful things. How do you get to this? Who ever said that was a nice thing to do? Were you thinking? “Yeah, I was thinking.” Did you acknowledge God? “God? I didn’t acknowledge God. What are you talking about?” You see?

So, it is a debased mind that gives rise to these things. Rookmaaker wrote a book many years ago, probably in the ’60s, Modern Art and the Death of a Culture. You realize that they are the expressions of these things. Melody and harmony are gone. Discordancy is gone. I don’t care what you really think about Keith Moon and the Who, but, I mean, do you really think there’s something wonderful about getting to the end of your concert and then smashing your guitar into smithereens and kicking the things that make the sound come out—whatever those things are? And then, “I’ve got something else we’re going to do: we’re going to go back to our hotel room, trash it. We’re just going to throw all the bed linen out in the street and…” It’s like, “What in the world happened to you?” “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, [he] gave them up to a debased mind to do what [they] ought not to [do].”

But we’re not finished. Look at verse 32. Here is a final, culminating indictment, if you like. Those that are characterized by what is in that list of 21, Paul says they’re not acting in ignorance. This is a recapitulation of what he said already, remember? That although they knew these things, they chose not to pay attention to it.[12] “Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die…” They know this. Conscience reveals this to them. He’s going to mention this about verse 15 of chapter 2, where he’s speaking about the fact—he’s speaking now to the Jews in chapter 2, and he says, “You know, if you think about it, you have the law, and you’ve got a responsibility in relationship to that. But what about the gentiles?” And then he says, “[But] they show”—verse 15—“that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by [Jesus Christ].”

Now, what he’s saying is very straightforward. “They know God’s righteous decree”: after death comes judgment.[13] “They know God’s righteous decree”: “In the day that you eat of this, you will surely die.”[14] They know that. But the knowledge of that is not sufficient to cause them to step away from it. Even when their conscience is at work, nevertheless, they continue to do it. Not only do they do it, but they give approval to those who practice what they’re doing, and they join in.

In other words, they’re committed to creating a society in which these things are accepted and these things are approved. Isn’t that what it is? They said, “Not only are we going to do them, but we’re going to make sure that others do them too.” Not to jump back into 26 and 27, but to come back to the sex education issue: the people that are at the forefront of doing that with our children in schools are coming from a worldview that has already embraced the legitimacy of that which the Scriptures say is entirely unnatural and illegitimate and ought not to be done. But you see, if you are a naughty boy—like, say you’re stealing pears—the best thing you can do is get other people to steal pears with you. That way you feel a little bit better about yourself, because now you’ve inculcated them in your own wickedness.

And that’s exactly what he says is happening: “They know that those who practice such things deserve to die—not only do them but they give approval to those who practice them.” Murray, in an uncharacteristically full-on statement in his commentary, says not only are they content in damning themselves but in congratulating others in doing these same things that they know result in damnation.[15]

So what’s our posture to be? Let’s stop. What’s our posture to be? In other words, not… I use “posture” in terms of heart expression.

Well, I think the first response is confession: that we need to confess self-righteousness; we need to confess that we are often on the wrong end of this. But it’s not to be, in terms of speaking to our friends and neighbors, admonition—just decrying what’s going on all the time in the culture. And one of the ways in which we can help ourselves with that is by paying attention, again, to Paul, where he reminds those to whom he writes, reminds Titus to remind his congregation, “We ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.”[16] He says, “That was us. That’s what we were like.” What’s the distinguishing factor? “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared…”[17] Isn’t that interesting? “The goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared.” He doesn’t say, “But when the wrath of God was made clear to us,” because we’ve already established the fact that they know that this is wrong; they know it deserves judgment. So that awareness is not enough to bring them to their senses. “Do you realize there’s hell to pay for this?” The person says, “To heck with that! Come on! No.” No: “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us.”[18]

See, this is what we have to do, then: not admonition but proclamation. We need to go full circle back up to verses 16 and 17—say to ourselves, and then say to other people, “I[’m] not ashamed of the gospel, [because] it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes”[19]—to all of us in our ungodliness. Say to our friends from wherever it is we work, or whatever—our sports club, or whatever else… And they say, “You know, I know you go to that church, and I know you’ve got this God thing going and everything else, but I don’t see why you have to be engaged with me. I just want to… I’m just living to my heart’s content. That’s really all I’m doing. I’m living to my heart’s content.” Well, push back on that a little bit: say, “Well, I haven’t noticed you to be particularly contented. Are you contented?” If they’re honest, they’ll say, “Well, no, I don’t think I’m really contented.”

Remember C. S. Lewis, where he talks about the child? He says our desires are pathetic, really. He says we’re preoccupied with drink and sex and ambition and material and so on. He says we’re like children building mud pies in a slum, failing to recognize, to be grasped by the fact that God means for us to have something far greater than that: a life at the ocean.[20]

Proclamation is not just what I’m trying to do this morning, but it’s proclamation of a life lived. And I conclude with this. This came to me this week from Terry McCutcheon. Incidentally, I could have finished with the book by Rosaria Butterfield, which, if you haven’t read it, in relationship to the things we spoke last Sunday, it will be tremendously helpful. Because what happens here in this little anecdote is the exact same thing that happened to Rosaria. It was the expression of a couple’s kindness that broke down the walls of her animosity as she was a tenured professor at one of the New York universities and in a committed ten-year lesbian relationship. It was kindness.

Terry sent this to me. He said, “Reverend Gills, a retired Free Church minister, died today at the age of ninety-two.” “Well,” I said, “okay, good. I didn’t know who he was. But thank you.” And then it was a scroll; it was a text. And then I read on. And he said,

I remember when me and a couple of my other drug-addict pals were taken to church by his son some twenty-eight years ago. We listened to Reverend Gills preach, and afterwards, we were invited into his home for tea and food. Even though we were doing drugs and we were under the influence, he still welcomed us into his home. I’ve often looked back now that I’m clean and a believer and thought to myself, “That was so Christlike, what Reverend Gills did. He didn’t wait for me to get clean to welcome me. He welcomed me in the hope that I would get clean.”

Our homosexual friends are not our enemies. They’re no more our enemies than a greedy adulterer is our enemy.

Let’s pray:

Father, thank you that your Word, as painful as it is, often, to proclaim and to receive, is an expression of your great love for mankind. And we marvel that in your wrath you remember mercy, and that in the gospel you have provided the answer to our own rebellious hearts. And we thank you that when we come face-to-face with your amazing kindness to us in Jesus—when we realize that in Jesus we don’t get what we deserve, but we get what we don’t deserve, and that is the amazing gift of forgiveness, a clean slate, a fresh start, a new life… Bring this to bear upon our minds, we pray, on our hearts in a life-changing way. And we encourage one another to go to the only place where refuge is to be found. And we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

[1] Romans 1:20 (paraphrased).

[2] Romans 1:23 (paraphrased).

[3] Romans 1:25 (ESV).

[4] Romans 2:1–3 (ESV).

[5] Philippians 3:6–7 (paraphrased).

[6] Romans 1:21 (paraphrased).

[7] Psalm 139:1, 13 (paraphrased).

[8] Cole Porter, “Anything Goes” (1934).

[9] Romans 1:28 (MSG).

[10] Romans 1:28–31 (Phillips).

[11] 2 Timothy 3:1–4 (paraphrased).

[12] See Romans 1:21.

[13] See Hebrews 9:27.

[14] Genesis 2:17 (paraphrased).

[15] John Murray, The Epistle to the Romans (Glenside, PA: Westminster Seminary Press, 2022), 67.

[16] Titus 3:3 (ESV).

[17] Titus 3:4 (ESV).

[18] Titus 3:4–5 (ESV).

[19] Romans 1:16 (ESV).

[20] C. S. Lewis, “The Weight of Glory,” in The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses (1941).

Copyright © 2024, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.