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 in 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).

Penny kicks the laptop away GIFBecause 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 in 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.

8 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. The more times I read through this passage of the chapter, the more curious I become when it comes to the conversation of God giving sinners up to their sins. Paul words it in a different way. He says, “…God gave them up to dishonorable passions.” (Rom 1:26) In this passage, and reoccurring similar passages around it, all use this phrasing to get the point across that God allows the sinners to wallow in their sins. Paul is trying to convey that The Lord gives them up to their sins. God doesn’t always “strike down” punishment on those who commit idolatry and other forms of sin, but he often may use that person’s own self-inflicted consequences as a means for being Just. In this passage Paul also makes clear that sexual relations are meant to be a means of expressing love for one another with a pure heart. “Paul is not talking about all sexual activities, but those which are outside the intended use of a sexual relationship as God designed it in creation.” (Long, 2019). So creation was meant to engage in sexual activities only through moral means, and God’s word tells us that only marital sexual relations are considered moral.

  3. When he says God gave them up to dishonorable passions. I don’t believe he is intending to say that God actually put them in a situation to fail or fall into these passions but instead stopped showing his grace and ability to help lead them away from these things. So what he is doing is letting them reap the consequences of their choices to disobey him and fall into these temptations. And the thought about if sexually activity to me is a very interesting one because it is very relevant in todays world. I do believe that humans were obviously meant to have sexual activities being that that’s the only way to reproduce but there is a right way to go about these activities and that would be through marriage.

  4. Romans 1:24-25, “Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.” God gave them up because they were living in sin, they did not want to change from their sinful ways. God gave us a free will to follow Him or not too. These people decided not to follow Jesus. God gave them up to their sin because that is what they wanted and what they choose for themselves. God loves everyone and wants them to be saved but not everyone will choose him. God gives us grace and the option to except His gift. It is also important that we allow God to change our hearts and for our hearts to be softened, specially towards our sin. Sexual sin is not only a sin against God but also the human body, (1 Cor 6:18). God created intimacy in marriage to benefit the health of marriage, this intimacy is important for marriage and not considered a sin when in marriage. These people were given over to their sin because they were not changing or wanted to make a change. They were having many different sexual relations and they were giving themselves over. God wants us to have purity and purity of heart, not just the physical aspect of it. These people were directly sinning against God and they really did not have repentance of it. God gave them over because that is what they choose.

  5. God gave them over to lust is a representation of the true dangers of sin. Sin as we know is missing the mark. God has set the standard for humanity, and we all fall short. Through the love of God, He has given us the choice to follow His ways. God is what we should all desire and seek. If this gift is neglected there is a consequence of sin. God warns of us sin because of how dangerous it is. The penalty for sin is separation from God. When Paul discusses enslavement to sin, there is a warning regarding the dangers that sin causes in one’s life. The idea of being captive to sinful desires is willing to put yourself in slavery to the thing that wants to destroy you. God made sex apart of His creation for mankind. Humans being sinful have not and do not respect what God has made for good. When this is abused and done improperly there are consequences against oneself. “Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body” (1 Corinthians 7:2 ESV). Paul in Romans discusses the harm of sexual relations done in the wrong way. He implores the church to not participate in ungodly ways. Paul does not want to see them be held captive by their sin, Paul desires the people to be free in Christ and desire Him. He continually informs and is clear on the dangers of this sin. We are reminded though that if we seek enslavement in this sin, we will receive it.

  6. In today’s society, I think, in a way, that most people want to be given over to their lusts and sexual desires. Homosexuality and sexual acts are displayed all over social media, TV shows, movies, or books. This has been normalized in our culture that if someone disagrees that premarital sex or homosexuality is wrong, they are called haters since love is love. I think that our culture is becoming like the futile living of the Romans in the day of Paul. The apostle talks about the degrading of culture of the Romans, saying that God has “given them over” to their sinful desires. Long says that this term is used in the Old Testament where Israel was given over to their enemies in captivity due to their negligence to follow God’s commands. Although Jewish readers would have noticed this term, we must draw the parallel to the captivity of the Israelites to the captivity of sexual sins. To live our lives as we please is not freedom, but bondage to sin and Satan. In other words, Paul says that the Romans decided to “worship and serve created things rather than the Creator” (Romans 1:25). God created sexual desires, but how the Romans and how our society tends to fulfill them are against the way the Creator designed things.

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