God Gave Them Over To Lust – Romans 1:24-27

Paul makes three similar statements in this controversial paragraph. God “gave them over” to sinful desires, shameful lusts, and depraved minds. The verb (παραδίδωμι) is used in the LXX for God handing over Israel to an enemy (Gen 14:20, Exod 23:31). Kruse claims the word is exclusively used guilty-computer-userin the LXX for handing over people to an enemy (Kruse, Romans, 99).

The metaphor of “being handed over for captivity” would be clear to both Jews and Gentiles. Humanity has been handed over to a powerful enemy who has enslaved them and holds them in his power. Human enslavement to sin is a theme of the letter (Romans 6:15-23)

A Jewish reader of the letter may hear an allusion to the Jewish captivity. Because of the extreme rebellion of Israel God handed them over to their enemies where they were held in captivity until such time as God acts in history to restore them to Zion. The “end of the captivity” is a way of describing the end of Israel’s punishment for their sin and the introduction of a new age of peace and prosperity (Isaiah 19:22).

Because they suppressed the truth, God gave them up “in the lusts of their heart.” Lust is not always sexual, although this lust leads to impurity (ἀκαθαρσία) and dishonoring (ἀτιμάζω) of their bodies. Both words can have be used in a non-sexual way, but Paul uses impurity for sexual immorality (2 Cor 12:21, Gal 5:19, Col 3:5, Eph 5:3). Paul is referring here to sexual activity which brings dishonor to a person, the details follow in 1:26-27.

Enjoyment of a sexual relationship is part of Jewish wisdom literature, as even a glance at Song of Solomon will show. Unfortunately, Paul has a puritanical reputation with respect to sexual relationships when he does not deserve. Part of the problem is Paul is usually addressing a situation coumputer-guiltin which there is a clear sexual sin (i.e., the young man in 1 Cor 5:1-12 or going to prostitutes in 1 Cor 6:12-20).

As a Jewish teacher who is well aware of the wisdom traditions on marriage and sex, Paul would have encouraged people to enjoy their sexual relationships spouses and he did not teach every to refrain from sexual relationships and live a celibate life as he did (1 Cor 7:2-3).

Since Paul is therefore using “captivity language” to describe sexual sin, it might be appropriate to begin a discussion these verses with the observation Paul it not talking about all sexual activities, but those which are outside the intended use of a sexual relationship as God designed it in creation. Some sexual activity is good and healthy, others are addictive and can lead to a twisting of the purpose of sex so that it is no longer satisfying.

I will deal with the specific sexual practice Paul mentions in the next post, but for now I want to think a little more about how “giving them up to lust” and to an “impure heart” is the result of not acknowledging God’s revelation of himself in creation. Is it possible Paul thinks there is a natural way sex to work that is a part of creation itself? Just as God has clearly revealed his invisible qualities, perhaps he has also revealed something about our sexuality in what has been made as well.

5 thoughts on “God Gave Them Over To Lust – Romans 1:24-27

  1. Hi Suzanne,
    Thinking about you on the Lord’s day and I wanted to share this article with you. May the Lord bless you and make his face to shine upon you today and forever.

    Love in Christ,


  2. I really love how you bring up that Paul is hinting at a natural way for sexual relationships and then an unnatural and sinful way that comes from not acknowledging God and how he intended sexual relationships to work. I believe that the sexual acts that Paul is talking about here are those in which have been twisted and perverted from their original intent or those that do not have God at the center. This I believe can refer to homosexual acts as well as acts outside of marriage. When we act within the bounds that God has set for us we put God in the middle of those relationships. I think what God has revealed is what should be obvious and natural to us as humans, that man and women were meant to be together and anything other than that twists what God intended.


    • I agree. I like that Paul does not shy away from the homosexual issue to help people in Rome live a good life. I believe Paul were trying to get eternal mindset of the people, because this is the only was someone will be able to enter the Kingdom of Haven if he or she is free from sexual immortality (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).


  3. Yes, I agree that Paul knows the natural way sex was supposed to be used by God. In Genesis 2:23-25, God creates a woman as a suitable helper for a man and they become one flesh through sexual relations. God explains that this will be a reoccurring pattern when a man leaves his father to join his wife in a marriage relationship as God designed it to be. The becoming of one flesh is only expressed throughout the Bible between one man and one woman in a marriage relationship. Sorry, homosexuality is unnatural, sinful, and harmful, because it does not meet God’s design of sexual activities. God makes guidelines for help us to get through this life on earth by providing behaviors that are unhealthy. I know the world will try to tell you differently about sex, but hold firm to the Word of God which bring life.


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