The following is the audio and transcript of my sermon this morning from Romans 1:18-32, given the Lord’s Day after the Supreme Court made so-called “same-sex marriage” legal in all fifty states.
Father, You know the burden upon me this morning. I pray You might guard my heart, my mind, and my mouth right now. I want my words to be Your words, my thoughts Your thoughts, my heart Your heart. Help me to speak truth, and truth only. Help me shepherd Your people by turning our hearts toward You, the Good and Perfect Shepherd and Guardian of our Souls. Where repentance is needed, may it be. Where confession is necessary, may it be. Where a shake-up of the way we think has to happen, I pray it will. Above all, though, Father, I pray You might be glorified, and as a result, Your people be strengthened. May grace and truth win the day through Your Son Jesus, in whose holy name we ask this. Amen.
I would love nothing more than to say turn to Luke 9, so we can continue our study of that book. But not today. Sometimes issues, events which transpire, demand our attention. They require us to take out our Bibles and bring the word of God to bear on what’s going on. This is one of those times. I have some things on my heart which, as your pastor, I need to talk to you about. So buckle in, because by God’s grace I’m going to say all He has put on my heart to say.
Romans 1:18-32… written by the apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to all — verse seven — “who [were] beloved of God in Rome, called as saints.” These were Christians. These were the church in Rome. First century Rome… a notoriously decadent society in which those who could — at the expense of those who could not — worshiped pleasure, worshiped entertaining themselves. Sexual immorality was rampant in the world of these earliest believers in Jesus in Rome. They had to be in that world, but not of it… they had to trust in the risen Christ… amidst a culture of death, a culture which had, to a significant degree, abandoned the creation ideal of male and female, marriage and family.
Two days ago, two years to the day five men and women, constituting a one person majority of the Supreme Court of the United States, struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage nationally as between one man and one woman, that same Supreme Court, by the same one person majority, with the same five voting the same way, decreed that states cannot define marriage or restrict it from anyone. Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing the majority opinion, essentially conjured up a “right to intimacy,” saying marriage should not be restricted to just being the union of one man and one woman.
Now that’s not say everyone agrees. 44% of the justices disagreed and they all wrote firm, even scathing dissenting opinions. Antonin Scalia wrote, “A system of government that makes the people subordinate to nine unelected lawyers does not deserve to be called a democracy.” Samuel Alito wrote something I very much agree with, that this ruling “will be used to vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy.” We are already seeing this.
The bottom line, beloved, is that — as expected, as I’ve been warning you would happen for some time now — so-called “same-sex marriage” is now the law of the land.
Welcome to Rome.
You live in Rome, beloved. You… I… we live in Rome… and then some. The America idealized in our memories has long been crumbling. Many have said Friday’s ruling is a death knell for the nation. In some respects I agree with that. That said, not all we cherish has been lost. And indeed, for Christians… for those who believe in a sovereign God… for those who have entrusted their lives to Jesus Christ… well, we should be the least shaken people in this country right now. You and I may rightly lament the progress of evil… the “shut up and take it” fast-track immorality overriding and destroying people’s lives. But we should not be shaken by it. We should not panic at all. Let not your heart be troubled, beloved. Believe in God. Believe also in His Son Jesus Christ. Caesar is dead, but Jesus is still alive, and Friday’s ruling hasn’t shaken Him in the least.
God has never left His throne, and five — even nine — Supreme Court justices cannot push Him off. Jesus was, is, and forever will be the ultimate Judge, the righteous Judge, the One who will judge the living and the dead when He appears again, bringing the fulfillment of His kingdom with Him. We who trust in Him long for that day, not yesterday. We look forward, as Titus 2:13 says, to the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself up, in part, to purify for Himself a people for His own possession. We look forward to that day.
Those who do not trust in Him should not.
Verse 18: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.”
It is popular to think of God as love. It is popular to think of God as One who forgives. But it is not so popular to think of God as holy. It is popular to think of God as One who is just, as long as He is dealing out that justice on others — you know, real sinners. It’s not so popular to think of God as One who is just when it means He has to deal with us, because we are the sinners. But beloved, because our God is holy — in fact, He’s described as holy, holy, holy — in Isaiah 6, He will not leave the guilty unpunished. He is very much a God of wrath, even Jesus, who in Revelation 19:15 is the One from whose mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty.”
No… that’s not a fun way to look at Jesus. That’s not popular. Understanding Jesus that way means there are consequences for our actions, our sins. Understanding Jesus that way means He is going to deal with His enemies justly, harshly. It means the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.
And what, in particular, provoked the Holy Spirit to inspire Paul to those words… when he did, to whom he did?
Verse 19: “Because that which is known about God is evident with them.” Within whom? All of the ungodly. All of the unrighteous. That which is known about God is evident within them, still in verser 19, “for God made it evident to them.” If we had time this morning, beloved, I’d take you through the first three chapters of Romans and prove to you that all men everywhere are born sinners. Allow me to simply quote chapter three, verse 23, I hope familiar to you, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We are all, 3:9, we are all under sin. So what Paul is saying in chapter one here is that God has made the knowledge He exists, an innate knowledge of who He is, evident to all men.
Well, first of all, creation. All men, all women, all children are created beings who live in God’s created world. The sun rises every day. The sun sets every evening. Our planet is situated just close enough to the sun so that we get the right amount of light and heat to survive, and just far away enough from the sun so that we don’t have too much light and heat so that we are scorched. Creation, beloved… there are countless ways we could point to the things God has made. Verse 20 tells us…
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.
Beloved, God has given you and everyone you know the knowledge of His existence through the things He has made. And there is a sense in which all men understand His divine nature, His eternal power, His invisible attributes like holiness, love, grace, justice… they understand that, too. Why? Because we are all made in His image… an image corrupted by sin, to be sure, but still leaving its mark with us so that deep down, we all know God is God. We are all without excuse.
And so you have two ways you can go? Either you can repent of your ungodliness and unrighteousness… or… verse 21…
For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.
And that is what the majority do, beloved. The majority of humanity make themselves the Supreme Court, and suppress the truth they know deep down. They deny that God is God. They deny that Jesus is His Son. They deny there will be judgment. They deny there is a need for a Savior and Jesus is the only Savior. They deny, deny, deny the truth! They know God, but do not honor Him as God. They replace Him… with whatever they desire to replace Him with. For some it is birds. For some it is four footed animals. For some it is crawling creatures. For most it is corruptible man. For most it is themselves, and I fear there may be some here today who say “I believe in God,” which is not a lie, because in reality they are their own god. They will ignore the commandments of the one true holy God, whom they know in their heart to be the one true holy God. They will exchange His will for their own. And God is watching.
God was watching on Friday when the Supreme Court made their decision. He was not shaken.
And neither should you when we come to realize the truth about everything going on in our world today… when we come to realize the truth our own nation — that it is made up of the same thing every other nation is made up of… sinners. Unrepentant sinners. Self-righteous sinners. We should not be shaken, because of what we read in verses 24-25…
Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
Look again at the start of those verses. “God gave them over.” God gave them over. God gave them over. Beloved, what is happening now in our society, in our culture, in this nation we’ve convinced ourselves is, or was, a Christian nation… the reality of what’s happening is sinful men and women have continued to reject what they know to be true about God… they continue to sin against God… they continue to be their own god. So God is giving them over.
Giving them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies will be dishonored among them. He’s giving them over, since they refuse to worship Him, to worship whatever they desire, and receive the recompense for their idolatry. He’s giving sinful men and women, and I would argue the United States of America, over to the consequences of its own lusts. Hearts are rotten so God is giving them over, letting them rot. And that’s not all.
For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.
Rotten hearts have degrading passions, beloved. God is giving sinners over to that. God is giving our nation over to that. Our nation has chosen to honor sexual immorality. Our nation has chosen to glorify divorce. Our nation has chosen to deny the biblical truth that sexual intercourse is to be shared between only one man and one woman within the bonds of marriage. Our nation has said, “Kids are going to have sex anyway, let’s hand out condoms in the schools!” Our nation has said, “You can’t teach abstinence.” Our nation has said, “If a boy feels like he is a girl we ought to call him a feminine name and use feminine pronouns.” Our nation has said, “a woman and a woman are great. A man and a man are great. Let’s sell graham crackers and yogurt and let’s advertise our bank by glorifying what God calls an abomination! Let’s market our nation’s women’s soccer team by celebrating those among them who engage in the abomination that is homosexuality. Let’s cheer the Supreme Court as they throw marriage under the bus, saying ‘That which God joins together isn’t good enough.’ We are going to let whoever wants to be together be together. God is not God. We are god. Our will be done!”
And the one true God, Psalm 2, sits in the heavens and laughs. The Lord scoffs at them. “Fine. Be that way,” He is saying. “Be that way… for now. Go ahead and see if rebelling against Me works out for you.”
Rotten hearts. Degrading passions.
And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper.
Rotten hearts. Degrading Passions. Depraved minds. The heart, the will, the mind… all corrupted by sin… all in rebellion against God. But notice, it’s still — for the third time — God giving them over.
We wonder how people can think the way they are thinking these days. How can people not understand, for instance, that we’ve been created male and female… that our very procreation and sustaining the human race depends on that being the case? People are just stupid, right? Well, yes, in a sense. God has given them over to a depraved mind. Because they’ve rebelled against God, God has allowed their sin to corrupt their minds to where they can no longer think straight! I can tell you for certain that five Supreme Court justices (at least) cannot think straight.
God is giving sinners over to depraved minds, so… verse 29… unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil, envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice, gossiping, slandering, hating God, insolence, arrogance, boasting, inventing evil, being disobedient to parents, being without understanding, being untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful, and knowing the ordinances, the law, the commandments of God, and not doing them… God gives sinners over to their depraved mind, they can’t think straight, so sinfulness — all of these sins — are celebrated.
Let me read verse 32 to you again.
And although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.
The first part of this verse is saying, beloved, that we all know deep down what God desires of us. Paul writes about the conscience in chapter two. It’s the image of God in us, beloved, condemning us from the inside for our sin. We know the ordinance of God. We know deep down those who sin are worthy of death, and yet sinners not only do the same, but they give hearty approval to those who practice them.
Friday morning the President of the United States led a congregation at a funeral in the singing of “Amazing Grace,” invoking God. By night the White House was bathed in the rainbow lights of so-called “gay pride.” The President, beloved, spit in the face of God. He was giving hearty approval to those who practice things worthy of death. And I would argue, spiking the football on the heads of Christians crying out for righteousness, saying “Nanna-nanna-boo-boo!”
Welcome to America, the land of the free, as long as you give hearty approval to the new orthodoxy.
I’ve read it said we no longer live in a constitutional republic, but in an oligarchy ruled by a majority of five, who decide in their black robes which laws they like and thus invent ways to make them stick. Our so-called Supreme Court has ignored the warning of the prophet Isaiah, who said, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight! Who justify the wicked for a bribe, and take away the rights of the ones who are in the right!”
Beloved, make no mistake about it, we are free today. But for how long? Ask the wedding photographer in New Mexico who has shut down her business because she’s been sued and the judge has ruled against her if she feels free. Ask the owners of a wedding chapel who denied a same-sex wedding and had to pay a fine and go to sensitivity training if they feel free. Ask the Christian bakers in Oregon who were sued for not making a cake if they feel free.
Make no mistake about it, beloved, Friday’s ruling may not be the beginning, but it is most certainly not the end. Sinners fight the restraints God has placed on sin viciously. If they can, they will fight against the law of God in their heart. They will do everything they can to silence the conscience, to destroy the family, to fight against the restraint God places on their sin. They fight against police (increasingly so). And they will come at those who fight for the law of God viciously. It’s well past time for Christians everywhere, including in this room, to recognize we are in a spiritual war.
In the meantime, we must decide what we are going to place our hope in. Are we going to place our hope in social and legal reform that reverses the course our culture is on? Beloved, we should fight to overturn what has happened, but should we place our hope in that?
Look back to verses 16-17.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘But the righteous man shall live by faith.'”
Will we place our hope in reform of the country? Or will we place our hope in the gospel, which reforms the heart? Will we place our hope in a Constitution which once was the law of the land, or will we put our trust in the word of God, which is eternal? We must decide, as one preacher has put it, whether or not we want to be part of a moral majority… or the prophetic minority — the former being an obsolete pursuit which puts its trust in man, the latter a bold call for repentance and the necessity to put one’s faith in Jesus Christ amidst a culture ever increasing in its hostility to the truth. Beloved, the moral majority was built on a foundation of sand, because morality is always subjective when it is not inextricably bound to the word of God. The gospel, though… it is the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes.
Those who have sought the legalization of same-sex marriage have followed after what they see as their pursuit of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. A salvation by happiness. But what they and millions of others who cheer them on don’t realize is so-called “same-sex marriage” cannot and will not deliver what they are seeking… for homosexuality at its core is a repudiation of how God created life in the first place… it is a false realization of liberty when in reality, they have not escaped the slavery to sin we were all born into. And as for the pursuit of happiness, well, the one who is born of God comes to understand that this earthly existence is not about happiness.
Do you understand that yourself this morning, beloved? The pursuit of happiness, as it relates to right now, is a fraud. The Christian, I pray you… the Christian has come to realize true happiness is found only in the reality and the effects of one empty tomb… one empty tomb which in turn opens the tombs of all who trust in the Jesus, who took the place on the cross of all sinners who will ever entrust themselves to Him.
We live today — the Christian does — not with happiness but with joy, and with the knowledge that when we are rescued from these bodies of sin and death, when we shall see Jesus face to face, our joy will be made complete. Those who practice and promote homosexuality as good, and those who give hearty approval to those who practice them, will never know that joy — not as long say continue to reject Christ, continue to walk in their sins, not repenting, not giving themselves over… to Jesus.
So if you are in Christ this morning… if you are truly a Christian… if you have and are repenting of your sins and do trust all that you are, all that you have, and all that you ever will be to Jesus… then there is no need to panic at the news. No need to fear. Nothing has changed with God. We have John 10:27-29, the words of Jesus, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.”
The good news of the gospel, beloved, is that any sinner, even a homosexual, even you, can be saved by the grace of God through faith in His Son Jesus Christ. Not superficial faith. But heartbroken, contrite, repentant faith. The gospel is for you, beloved. If you don’t know the Lord, don’t think yourself above the Lord, above His word, above His law, beyond His wrath. Realize how weary and heavy-laden you are by your own struggle for self-sufficiency, your own sin, and come to Jesus, who will give you rest.
As for the church, the ones believing, I want to close by mentioning a few things we need to be doing in light of what is going on in our culture, in our country…
We need to continue to love all sinners. We need to continue to love all sinners. Whether they be heterosexual, homosexual, black or white, English-speaking or Spanish-speaking, rich or poor… we need to continue to love all sinners, and as I have heard it put, be prepared for the refugees from the sexual revolution, who realize how hopeless and fruitless it is. Some will be looking for real hope, found only in Jesus, and we need to love Jesus and love them enough to bring them to Him.
We also need to watch our life and our doctrine closely, as 1 Timothy 4:16 says. As we get closer to genuine persecution, and I believe we will, the temptation to soften our stance on truth for the approval of men or an easier life will increase. It’s likely even some here might someday turn away. I say that only because the Bible says it will happen. And we’ve got to love the Lord and fear Him enough to not capitulate on the truth just to make other people happy. I’ll add to that the need to always be re-examining our partnerships — in life and in the church. Would we rather offend men or offend God? Now above all over times, we must get into the word of God and know it, and live it out in obedient faith, no matter the costs.
Another thing… more than ever, we need to, as Christians, be clearly articulating the biblical doctrine of marriage and family. We must not be content to let the world tell itself what is normal. We must love all sinners, but at the same time be the light of the earth, letting people know what God has said, regardless of what the Supreme Court or the President has said. We need to be clear about marriage and family, because God is, and point people to the One who created them and is glorified through them — Jesus Christ.
Father, please have regard for our prayer, that repentance might be found in our nation, but most of all that repentant hearts might turn to You, even amongst ourselves, and those we know. To You, God, be the glory. Great things You have done in us. Great things You will do in Your people for eternity, through Jesus Your Son. Amen.