Arguments for the proposition, 1:18-5:21
#1: The impartial nature of God's righteous condemnation of universal sin, 1:18-3:20.
Part 2: The human condition of universal human sin has been condemned by God to even greater sin.
Paul, having stated his thesis in 1:16-17, proceeds to argue for the universality of human sin, v18-32. In v18-23 Paul details the human condition of sin, of the reality-denying delusion driving humanity in an ever downward spiral. Now, in v24-32, he details the divine response of non-intervention. Paul argues that the righteous judgment of God on human sin is both active and evident in the compounding of human sinfulness; "God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity."
i] Context: See 1:18-23.
ii] Background: The nomist heresy 1:8-15.
iii] Structure: The consequences of human rebellion:
Given over to immorality, 24-27;
A greater dulling of the spirit - "a debased mind", v28;
Leading to even greater immorality, v29-32.
Paul now examines the consequences that befall humanity for not honouring and worshipping God. The argument is slightly repetitive, in that Paul restates v21-23 again in v25, which point serves as the ground for his statement in v24, restated in v26-27: Paul's argument is that humanity has refused to glorify God and instead has worshiped idols, v21-23, dioti, "therefore", God paredwken, "handed over", humanity to sin, v24, because they did not honour him, v25, and as a consequence God paredwken humanity to corrupted sexual desire, v26-27. As Schreiner puts it, "the fundamental truth of the universe is that God exists and that he should be worshiped and served and his name should be praised." The prime sin of humanity rests on our failure to worship and honour God; all other sin is a consequence of this one sin. Paul goes on in v28 to further explain what God paredwken, "handed [humanity] over" to, namely "a depraved mind" evident in a litany of corruption, v29-32.
Homosexual sin: "Men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error", ESV.
In this passage, Paul addresses the sinful nature of homosexual sex, the practice of same sex relations, and not the issue of homosexuality as such. He argues that same sex relations are a product of worshiping and honouring the creation (idolatry) rather than God: This proposition has precedence in Jewish literature, eg., The Testament of Naphtali 3:3-4, and The Wisdom of Solomon, 14:12, 26, 27. Of course, his argument runs counter to the accepted secular view of the time. In fact, in Greek culture, sexual relations between men and pubic boys were widely accepted, often eulogised by writers of the time, eg., Plato.
Today, in Western society, Paul's view of sexuality is regarded with disdain by progressives. In fact, it is increasingly illegal to promulgate the view that homosexual sex is either immoral, unnatural or unhealthy, eg., The Racial Discrimination Act, section 18C, in Australia. Given the wide acceptance of homosexual relations in modern Western societies, the church has tended to refrain from pressing the Pauline view, either holding it to be an unhelpful debate in the present context (the view of Pope Francis), or out of step with Biblical principles (the liberal view). Only the more fundamental churches are willing to press the issue.
With a fair reading of the text, the principle stands, but what doesn't stand is the assumption that homosexuality itself is sinful, or that homosexual couples are more sinful than heterosexual couples. We are all sinners. A practicing homosexual / transgender believer is no more flawed than a divorced and remarried believer, or a married believer who has had numerous sexual encounters before marriage. In fact, as Jesus makes clear, even the immoral thought makes us an adulterer. The point is, we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and we can only but stand because of the gracious mercy of God in Christ. It is on this basis that we can accept, in love, a fallen homosexual brother or sister loved of God, without affirming that their lifestyle is pure, natural and healthy.
Sin remains sin, and to deny sin only compounds it, prompting God to give humanity up to all manner of unrighteousness.
Schreiner, in his Backer ECNT commentary on Romans, p94-97, has some useful comments on this subject.
Text - 1:24
Argument #1, Part 2. Universal sin, in the face of God's non-interventionist condemnation, spirals into ever greater sin, v24-32:
i] "The divine degradation of those who suppress the truth", Jewett, v24-27. This fact is stated in v24 and evidentially supported using Semitic parallelism: they exchanged the truth for a lie and worshiped the creature rather than the creator, v25. The truth is again picked up in v26a, and again supported: their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and the men also exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural. The "they" is humanity, a humanity corrupted by sin.
dio "therefore" - therefore. Inferential, drawing a logical conclusion. Given the state of human sin, v23, "therefore, God's response was that he ......." "They gave up God; therefore God gave them up ...", Phillips.
paredwken (paradidwmi) aor. "gave them over" - [god] handed over, gave over, gave up [them]. The aorist is constative. Possibly "abandoned / washed his hands of them", or "they fell out of God's hands", cf., Dodd, or "they were delivered over to judgement (with the ultimate intent to heal???)", cf. Cranfield.
en "in" - in, on, by, with. Either local, expressing space, "in", metaphorical, as NIV, or instrumental where their actual state of being is bound by the lusts of their mind, so Barrett, but possibly as eiV, "into", into the custody of their sinful desires.
twn kardiwn (a) "of [their] hearts" - [lusts] of the hearts [of them. The genitive is ablative, of origin / source; "the sinful desires that stem from their minds." Note how depravity seems to go hand in hand with idolatry.
eiV "to" - into [uncleanness, impurity]. Spatial; Given up into the bondage of sexual impurity ...... Probably in the sense of sexual immorality, as NIV. "The prison into which they have been delivered", Cranfield.
tou atimazesqai (atimazw) pres. pas. inf. "for the degrading" - to be dishonoured [the bodies of them]. This construction, the genitive article tou + an infinitive, introduces a final clause expressing purpose, but it may also express result, or be explanatory. Epexegetic (explanatory) is certainly possible, so Moo, but result (a consecutive clause), "with the result that", seems best; "the consequent degradation of their bodies", REB.
en + dat. "with [one another]" - in = among [themselves]. Here expressing association; "with". Of abusing the natural function of the body, probably "among themselves", possibly "among them", so Cranfield.
Note that the concluding benediction is common in Rabbinic literature, cf., Rom.9:5, 2Cor.11:31.
oiJtineV indef. rel. pro. "they" - who, whoever [changed]. Indefinite pronoun possibly introducing a relative clause referring back to v24 and emphatic, "who indeed", Wallace, or expressing cause, "for they had utterly transformed the reality of God into something unreal", Williams, so Longenecker. Note the section division of Moo above, supported by others, eg., Cranfield. If v25-26/27 is a restatement of v22-24, then it is best treated as a new paragraph beginning "they actually ...", Cranfield.
tou qeou (oV) gen. "[the truth] about God" - [the truth] of god. The genitive is usually treated as adjectival, verbal, objective; "the truth concerning / about God." Moo argues that "the truth of God" is not "the truth God has made known and belongs to him", Murray (subjective), but "the reality, the fact of God as he has revealed himself" (objective)
en "for" - in = into [the lie]. With a verb of motion this preposition is often used instead of eiV to express "to, into". They changed the truth into a lie, cf., v23 - humanity discarded the truth about the existence and person of God and embraced a lie instead of it, the lie being the primacy of ourselves, so Jewett; "they substituted their untruth with God's truth", Barclay.
esebasqhsan (sebazomai) aor. "worshiped" - [and] worshiped [and served]. Constative aorist, so also "served". Used in the sense of reverence and respect.
th/ ktisei (iV ewV) dat. "created things" - the universe, creation, what was made. Dative of direct object after the verb latreuw, "to worship". They confused the Creator with the creation.
para + acc. "rather than" - beside = rather than. Here serving as a comparative, not to form an equal comparison, "in comparison to", but of the first going beyond, greater than, the second, so "more than", or simply "rather than", as NIV, Barrett, TNT, NAB....; "instead of the Creator", REB, "in preference to the Creator", Cassirer.
ton ktisanta (ktizw) aor. part. "the Creator" - the one having created. The participle serves as a substantive, accusative direct object of the preposition para.
eiV touV aiwnaV "forever [praised]" - [who is blessed] into the ages, [amen]. Temporal construct; idiomatic for "forever".
It is not clear from this verse that God "handed over" women to same sex relations, but given v27, it seems very likely that same-sex "unnatural" sexual acts are in mind.
dia + acc. "because of [this]" - because of [this, god gave over, delivered over, turned over them into]. This causal construction, "for this reason", ESV, is often inferential, drawing a logical conclusion; "God therefore, allowed them to go their own way", Barclay. Handed over eiV, "to", punishment.
atimiaV (a) "[to] shameful [lusts]" - [to lusts, passions] of shame, disrespect, dishonour. The genitive is adjectival, attributive, limiting "lusts", "shameful" type of "lusts / passions (positive use = "suffering")". According to Jewett, the noun paqh, "passions", refers to an involuntary state which possesses a person.
gar "-" - for. Introducing a causal clause explaining why "God gave them up"; "for their females have exchanged ....", Williams.
te "even" - and. Introducing a coordinate construction which extends into v27, "both ..... and ...."; "the women ...... as well as the men."
aiJ ... qhleiai (uV) "their women" - the females. An unusual substantival use of the adjective, but possibly referencing the creation account in Genesis. Why does Paul mention women first? Morris suggests that the argument is compounding, given the stress he puts on the men, ie. the emphasis is upon the men, not the women.
autwn gen. pro. "-" - of them. The genitive is adjectival, partitive, or better possessive.
thn fusikhn crhsin "natural relations" - [changed, exchanged] the natural function. Accusative direct object of the verb "to change." Here probably taking a particular sense, "sexual relations", Zerwick, cf., BAGD.
eiV + acc. "for" - into. Stylistic use of the preposition following the verb "to change", "changed into" = "exchanged for."
thn + acc. "unnatural ones" - the [beside, contrary to nature]. The article serves as a nominalizer turning the prepositional phrase "beside nature" into a substantive. Probably para here expressing opposition, "rather than / instead of", so "contrary to, against [nature]". This is usually understood to refer to homosexuality, but Hendriksen puts a good case when he argues for a wider understanding, namely, any sexual relation, either homosexual or heterosexual, outside of that between a husband and his wife. None-the-less, most commentators argue that Paul is referring particularly to lesbian relations, to homoeroticism and not sex outside of marriage, nor something like oral or anal sex with a male, so Jewett, Dumbrell, Schreiner (95-97, a good survey of those commentators who try to minimise Paul's negative remarks on homosexuality), Hunter, Moo, Fitzmyer (argues that Paul is coming from an OT / Jewish perspective which views homosexuality as against the divine order), Dunn, Murray, Cranfield ("unnatural sexual relations between women"), Kasemann, Barrett, Leenhardt ("unnatural sexual relations"), ....
In like manner to the women, God "handed over" the men to unnatural homosexual / same-sex relations; see "Interpretation" above. There is no shortage of those who seek to reevaluate this verse, given the intense pressure on the Christian church to conform to a progressive secular understanding of sex. Some have argued that Paul is not condemning homosexual sex as such, but rather homosexual sex acts by men who are naturally heterosexual; see Boswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality, 1980.
te "-" - and. Introducing the next step in the coordinate construction commenced in v26.
oJmoiwV adv. "In the same way" - [and = also] likewise [the males]. Comparative; "likewise, in like manner."
afenteV (afihmi) aor. part. "abandoned" - having left, abandoned. Since v26 and 27 are a single sentence in the Gk., the three participles in this verse are best viewed as attendant circumstance participles, expressing action accompanying the main verb "exchanged / changed", v26, and so translated as finite verbs as NIV, although this participle is possibly adverbial, temporal, so Jewett. Harvey suggests it is adjectival, attributive; "likewise men also, who gave up natural relations with men, were consumed ...." Used of "abandoning" a "divinely intended, originally heterosexual relationship between males and females", Jewett. "Men, also, deserted their natural sexual functions with women", Junkins.
thV qhleiaV adj. "with women" - [the natural use] of the female. The adjective, "feminine", is used as a substantive, while the genitive is adjectival, attributive, "the natural function which is peculiar to a female; "men abandoned natural intercourse with women", Barclay.
en th/ orexei "with lust" - [burned, flamed] in the lusts [of them]. The preposition en is possibly causal, but better local, expressing space, of an inward burning "in / within" the craving, lust, strong and eager desire = "in their sensual nature."
eiV + acc. "for" - to, toward [one another]. Spacial, expressing the direction of the action and arrival at.
en "with" - [males] in [males]. Possibly expressing association, "men in connection with men", or adverbial, manner, "men with men."
katergazomenoi (katergazomai) pres. part. "committed" - performing, working, accomplishing. Attendant circumstance participle, as above, or adverbial, consecutive, expressing result. "Perpetrate", Zerwick.
thn aschmosunhn (h) "indecent / shameful" - the shameless, indecent, disgraceful acts. The indecent act is not defined, but is fairly obvious. Roman "society from top to bottom was riddled with unnatural vice", Barrett.
apolambanonteV (apolambanw) pres. part. "received" - [and] receiving back as one's due. Attendant circumstance participle, or consecutive, expressing result, as above.
thn antimisqian (a) "the [due] penalty" - the recompense, retribution [which was necessary, due]. The penalty is the perversion itself, ie., "God gave them up to degrading passions". "Males, in multiplying their shameful behaviour with each other, experienced the natural, spiritual, psychological, and physical consequences of their rejection of God", Junkins.
thV planhV (h) gen. "perversion" - because of the error, going astray = perversion [of theirs, them]. The genitive may be classified as adjectival, possessive, "the recompense which belongs to their perversion", or verbal, objective, "the recompense due their perversion", or subjective, "for their perversion."
ii] A sample list of those who have abandoned God, and who, as a consequence, are abandoned by God to a "downward spiral in human morality", Dumbrell, v28-32.
kai "furthermore" - and. Adjunctive, "also".
kaqwV "just as" - as. The NIV takes the conjunction here as a comparative; serving to draw a comparison between human action and God's action. We gave up on God, likewise, God gave up on us. It may also be causal, providing further grounds for God's "handing over"; "and since they did not .....", ESV. "Since they considered themselves too high and mighty to acknowledge God, he allowed them to become slaves to their degenerate minds", Phillips.
ouk edokimasan (dokimazw) aor. "they did not think it worthwhile" - they did not test / approve, think fit. Moo suggests "see fit" when followed by an infinitive as here; "since they did not see fit to acknowledge God", ESV.
ecein (ecw) pres. inf. "to retain" - to have, hold [god]. Following a cognitive verb, the infinitive serves to form a dependent statement of perception expressing what they didn't think to be worthwhile, namely, "to hold God in their knowledge" = "to acknowledge God", ESV. "They deliberately refused to recognise God", Barclay.
en + dat. "[the knowledge of God]" - in [their knowledge]. Local, expressing sphere. Since the creature depends on the divine to function normally, the denial of God and of his revelation brings with it unnatural consequences. "In keeping with their rejection of God and his leading ...", Junkins.
adokimon adj. "a depraved" - [god gave over, turned over them into = to] a corrupted mind, useless, rejected, discredited, unfit [mind]. Gave them over to an "unfitting" mind, Jewett.
poiein (poiew) pres. inf. "to do / so that they do" - to do. The present tense is iterative, expressing repeated action. The infinitive may be adverbial, final, expressing purpose, "in order to do", but better consecutive, expressing result, "so that", as TNIV, so Wallace. On the other hand, it may be epexegetic, explaining the nature of "an unfit mind" = "a useless way of thinking, thinking that promotes actions which no person ought to do."
ta mh kaqhkanta pres. part. "what ought not to be done" - the thing not being proper, fitting, moral. The articular participle serves as a substantive, accusative object of the infinitive "to do".
The list of vices in v29-31 consists of three groups:
•iFour dative nouns, serving as datives of the thing possessed, "[filled] with ...", qualified by pash/, "every kind of", and in apposition to autouV, "them"; "[God gave] them [over]", v28. "God gave them over to unrighteousness, wickedness, consuming ambition, vice", v29a;
•i Five adjectival genitives, idiomatic, of content, limiting mestouV, "full of ....", and also in apposition to autouV, "them". "Their lives are permeated with envy (jealousy), murder, quarrelling (party spirit, strife), underhand plotting (deceit), malignity (malice = "always thinking the worst of others", TH)", Barclay, v29b;
•iTwelve vices listed as accusative objects of an assumed verb to-be, all in apposition to autouV, "them". "They become whispering (gossips), scandal-mongers, slanderers, God-forsaken and God-defying (God-haters), arrogant (insolent), braggarts (boastful), ingenious in the discovery of novelties in vice (inventors of evil = immoral), disobedient to parents. They are without conscience (without understanding), without honour (covenant breakers), without family affection, without pity (unmerciful)", Barclay, v30-31.
peplhrwmenouV (plhrow) perf. pas. part. "they have become filled" - having been filled [with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greediness, evil, full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice, whispers, backbiters, haters of god, insolent, arrogant, boasters]. The participle is adverbial, consecutive, expressing result; "God has given them up ........ with the result that they are filled ..."
kakwn gen. adj. "[they invent] ways of doing evil" - [inventors] of evil. The adjective serves as a substantive, while the genitive is adjectival, of definition, as Barclay, or as NIV, it may be treated as verbal, objective, so Harvey.
goneusin (ouV ewV) dat. "[they disobey their] parents" - [disobedient] to parents [senseless, faithless, unaffectionate, merciless]. Dative of indirect object of an assumed verb to-be, the direct object being the nominal adjective, "disobedient", "they are disobedient to parents", or simply "parent despisers", Berkeley.
oiJtineV pro. "they" - whoever, who. The relative pronoun serves as the nominative subject of the participle "knowing". Referring not to a class of people, but to humanity in general, that component of the creation which ignore God and consequently slips into a downward spiral of sin.
epignonteV (epiginwskw) aor. part. "although they know" - knowing. The participle is adverbial, probably concessive, as NIV, so Moo. Paul contends that "God has revealed enough of himself for people to know what is right and what is wrong", Morris. Yet, although humanity is aware of the righteous judgment of God, his mind on the matter of sin, humanity in rebellion to God not only continues in vice, but promotes it.
qeou (oV) "God's" - [the just requirements] of god. The genitive is ablative, expressing source / origin "the righteous decrees from God", or adjectival, possessive. "God's verdict", JB, on sin. "God's law", TEV, is close, but not what Paul has said. "They know God has said that anyone who acts this way deserves to die", CEV.
oJti "that" - that. Introducing an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what they knew.
oi ... prassonteV (prassw) pres. part. "those who do" - the ones doing, practising [such things]. The participle serves as a substantive, nominative subject of the verb to-be.
qanatou (oV) gen. "[deserve] death" - [are worthy] of death. The genitive is adjectival, epexegetic / of definition, specifying what they are worthy of, namely, death, or verbal, objective, so Wallace, Harvey. Spiritual, or physical death, or both? Paul does not say, but humanity is terrorised by death and there is a sense where we all know that it relates to the way we are - a corruption caused by corruption.
alla "but" - [not only do them] but. Strong adversative standing in a counterpoint construction; "not ....., but ...."
kai "also" - and. Adjunctive; "but they also give approval ...."
suneudokousin (suneudokew) pres. "approve of" - heartily approve of. The present tense is probably iterative, expressing repeated action. "Applaud such practices", NEB, such that the vice is actively encouraged in the life of others.
toiV prassousin (prassw) pres. part. "those who practice them" - the ones doing these things. The participle serves as a substantive, dative of direct object after the sun prefix verb "to approve of." There seems to be a strengthening in the word from "those who do such things" to "those who practice such things". The artisan of vice is more to be applauded that the mere occasional participant.