2020 Summer Evening, Romans Series, Part 44, Verses 21-24

  • | Chris McCann
  • Audio: Length: 28:16
  • Passages covered: Romans 1:21-24, Ephesians 4:17-19, Daniel 12:9-10, Matthew 15:19-20,
    Genesis 6:5, Jeremiah 17:9, 2Thessalonians 2:6-7, Romans 1:22, Revelation 2:2,
    1Corinthians 1:19-20.

| 40 | 41 | 42 | 43 | 44 | 45 | 46 | 47 | 48 | 49 | 50 | 51 |

Welcome to EBible Fellowship’s Bible study in the book of Romans. Tonight is study #44 of Romans 1, and we are continuing in Romans 1:21-24:

Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:

We are finishing up the last part of verse 21, where it says they “became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” We were looking at the word “darkened,” and we saw it is used in Ephesians 4. Let me read that again because it is very descriptive, and it is really a strong condemnation of mankind who lives in the world apart from God and are dead in trespasses and sins. It says in Ephesians 4:17-19:

This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.

This is a terrible indictment and a terrible condemnation of man, the creature that God created good and in His own image, and we rebelled against Him and went contrary to Him, and this is the result. This is what happened. Man is ignorant and lacks understanding where there should be understanding, recognition, acknowledgment, and comprehension of what is right and good, in contrast to what is wrong and evil. Man should know the difference because he was created “good” and created in God’s image. And God is a God who certainly knows the difference between good and evil and right and wrong, but man has lost that ability to properly discern when faced with a situation where he needs to make a decision or a judgment. When an issue comes up and he must go one way or another, what is right? What is wrong? What is the good thing to do? What is the evil or bad thing to do? If you leave it up to man without help from God…and, again, as God’s Spirit was upon the heart of man throughout the history of the world, holding back man’s natural tendency toward ignorance and lack of understanding, He often enabled man to make right decisions. But that was God intervening so that the world would not become as it is today, and it would not be this “mess.” It could not be this way a thousand years ago or five thousand years ago because the world had to operate and function to some degree, and we are fast approaching the point where the world will not be able to properly function because man is so desperately wicked. And it is all coming to the forefront, where it is visible and can be quickly seen. That is why the world will not go on for 100 years or even 50 years. At this rate, we sometimes wonder if the world can go on another year or any extended length of time. But God does have a timetable, and according to the Biblical evidence, we are looking at the year 2033 as the year when God will bring things to an end.

But man, in himself, is an ignorant, fallen creature. He does not have understanding. This is why there are statements like we see in Daniel 12, as we realize what is in man. It says in Daniel 12:9-10:

And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end. Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand.

None of the wicked will understand because they will be in darkness. For those in the churches, God made the churches dark. For those in the world, God made the world dark. So none of the wicked that are in the darkened condition of being a spiritually dead sinner will understand the things of God.

And, yet, we did not know how awful this lack of understanding would get. It is bad enough that the people of the world do not understand right doctrine or the true Gospel. They do not understand that salvation is all of the Lord, and that He saves through election, and that He does all the work in the matter of salvation by the faith of Christ and the grace of God. No – they do not understand that. And it is bad enough that they do not understand on numerous points of doctrine across the board, but now it has gotten to this point.

But it is not as though things have gotten “out of control.” No – it is all by God’s action. God is the one who is not only allowing it, but He is punishing the world through these things. It has gotten to the point where mankind does not understand basic morality or, we could say, even basic instinctive or natural morality. This is really a strong testimony to the truths of the Word of God. As we have read these Scriptures in times past that told us of the inward spiritual condition of the sinner (all mankind), and God never held that information back. He always described man in the most unflattering terms. It was almost as though He was speaking of some kind of monster, and people in past generations could look around and agree, “Well, yes, there are a few monsters out there – some really wicked person like Hitler – but, for the most part, people are basically good.” They could say that only because God’s Holy Spirit was suppressing the true ugly nature of man, holding it down so that people could act and behave with conduct that was basically good. There was some basic morality. But the Bible has always said this of mankind, as God says in Matthew 15:19-20:

For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man…

Or, we could read in Genesis 6 where God determined to bring the judgment of the flood, in Genesis 6:5:

And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

And, yet, if we were living at that time to see the people living in the days of Noah, we would have thought, “Oh, this is a quaint country village. These people are nice.” But God does not look upon the outward appearance. He is not fooled by the outward appearance of man. He looks upon the heart, and God sees “only evil continually.” He saw a bunch of “Hitlers,” to put it in the language of the world. He saw a bunch of evil dictators and rulers that had done evil to their people (as those are the only ones the world thinks are evil), but as God looks upon every man, woman and child, He sees only evil coming forth from their hearts. How bad is it? Jeremiah 17:9 is probably one of the most descriptive verses in the Bible that describes human beings, the sons of Adam, that have fallen into sin. You cannot bring a clean (thing) out of an unclean (thing). Our parents were unclean, and they have brought forth unclean children. Just as Mr. Camping used to say, a snake brings forth a snake, and we are like vipers. So, in Jeremiah 17 God speaks of man’s heart and soul, and He says in Jeremiah 17:9:

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?

It is desperately wicked. It is bad enough that God says the heart is deceitful above all. That are a lot of things we can compare it to. Is it more deceitful than this awful thing or that terrible thing? And the answer is, “Yes.” It is deceitful above all things, and if that is not bad enough, He says it is wicked. And it is not just wicked. To have a heart that is deceitful above all and wicked would mean that you are very bad, but it is not just wicked. It is “desperately wicked.” You know, we have to love the Word of God and the language of the King James Bible because it “does not mess around.” God tells it like it is, and the reason the King James Bible is so excellent is because, for the most part, they translated it as God wrote it. And this is the assessment and opinion of the One who searches the hearts and minds and knows the deep things of man. And this is His summation: man’s heart is desperately wicked. Again, throughout most of history man was being acted upon by the Spirit of God, as I referred to earlier, but it would be good to read it. It says in 2Thessalonians 2:6-7:

And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.

The word “letteth” is the same word translated as “withholdeth,” and it has to do with holding back or suppressing. The personal pronoun “he” is speaking of the Holy Spirit. That is, the Holy Spirit was performing this work. And this was the “mystery of iniquity.” It is a mystery until we read these other things in the Bible. We read that the thoughts of man’s heart was only evil continually; or, we read that his heart is deceitful above all and desperately wicked; or we read the language in Romans 3 that there is none good, no not one, and there are none righteous. And a lot of other language can be found in the Bible that goes along with this, and it is a terrible assessment of the nature of fallen man. So it is a mystery that man was acting even basically in a decent way. Again, there would be outbreaks of evil, like concentration camps and torture, especially during wars, that would show forth the truth of the Word of God and show the deep-down condition of mankind. And I think that is one of the reasons God allowed it. He did not want mankind to have too “rosy” a picture of himself.

But the “mystery of iniquity” was that if these things were true, why were there law-abiding citizens? Why were there people that formed governments that operated according to moral decency, and so forth? It was because at that time the Holy Spirit was “withholding.” He was holding back the ugliness within man, until He (the Holy Spirit) be taken out of the way. And now we are living at the time of the end when God is lifting His hand. Take a look around. Get a genuine look now into what has resided in the heart of man all along: no understanding; no real concern or care for his neighbor or brother; no sense of respect or honor or decency; no ability to recognize good versus evil. There is no understanding in him to know how to live a good life, and so forth. It is just not in him. He is a “dark” creature. He is a creature that has fallen from the position of good, and he is wicked. And he is not just wicked, but “desperately wicked.”

And now we are seeing it. Again, we are getting a good look at the darkness that lies within unrepentant sinners, and their sins are not being held back to the degree that it was, especially since we have entered into the Day of Judgment, because immediately after the Tribulation, the sun was “darkened.” God darkened the light of the Gospel; that is, the light of the Word of God. But it also seems to relate to the darkening of the Law that is written upon the heart of man. Romans 2 speaks of God writing His Law upon man’s heart and that, as well, seems to be involved in this, and man is now stumbling around in blindness and ignorance. It is just a horrible and terrible thing that we are witnessing, and that is why it is part of the wrath of God. In the Old Testament, the word “sin” is also translated as “punishment,” and we can read that in Genesis 4 when Cain said, “My punishment is greater than I can bear.” He is saying, “My sin is greater than I can bear.” He is clearly referring to punishment.

And, likewise, when God has lifted His hand of restraint, and iniquity is abounding across the face of the earth, it is punishing all people, in one way or another, when they are not living according to the Law of God, because the Law of God is that which brings blessing and happiness. To the degree we live in line with that Law will the degree to which we experience blessing and happiness.

Let us go back Romans 1:22:

Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,

The word “professing” is found in Revelation 2:2:

I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:

The word translated as “which say” is our word. They profess they are apostles, and are not, and God has found them to be liars. And this would be a good verse to show why it is fitting to speak of “believers” versus “true believers.” (I try not to refer to “true believers” any longer, because even that has been distorted to some degree, as there are a number of Family Radio believers that have gone backwards, but they would identify themselves as true believers.) But, here, they say they are apostles, but they are not apostles. The Christian churches today are comprised of about two billion “professed Christians.” That is, they are people who say they are Christians, but they are not Christians in the real sense of the word, because to be a Christian requires that God make you one. You have to be “born” into the family of God and Christ, and then take His name. But, the overwhelming majority of the people that say they are Christian are not. They are “professed Christians.” They say it, but it is not true.

So, first, this would have an application to those in the churches, because when you say you are a Christian, you are saying that you are “wise.” God likens those that are saved to the “wise” in the Bible, and those that He has not saved are likened to “fools.” So this does apply to that, also: “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.” But given the context of idol making…remember, earlier it said they do not want to admit that God is the Creator, and they hold or suppress the truth in unrighteousness, so it appears that it is unsaved man, in general, that is in view. It is the wicked of the earth – the secularists, the atheists, and so forth. They are the people of the world that have developed a “science” where they have done away with God, and their idea or origin has nothing to do with a Creator God. They have their evolution theory concerning why there is such a vast array of creatures in the world. They think they are very wise. And that is obvious, if you ever listen to them. They really think they are wise. They have it all down, and they speak with authority and confidence: “So many billions of years ago, this is what happened. Then there was evolution, and man is currently atop the evolutionary ladder, but soon some other creature will develop and surpass us.” They get into all these things, and they lay out their “wisdom,” and profess that they are wise. They know it all. They have the knowledge.

Then we look around the world, and we look at every nation, and every nation has these people within them, but these people do not seem to be able to help their own nation concerning wisdom. They do not seem to be able to help the people of the world, in general, to live as wise human beings. We see the foolishness of man on display on a daily basis, even on an hourly and moment-to-moment basis, where we can only conclude (based on the evidence) that it is a world of fools, and it is not a world of wise people. It is not a world of people who know what they are doing and who have everything figured out. Actually, almost always, they do not know what they are doing, and they are often going down the wrong road, saying wrong things, doing wrong things, and it is world of chaotic mess because man wants to do it all by himself. He does not want to consult with God. He does not want the advice or wisdom of God in any way: “No – that is outdated.” Man has advanced and progressed to the point of being the one who really knows. If anything could be more ridiculous, I do not know what it is, and if anything could be further from the truth, I do not know what it is. They constantly profess and say how wise they are, and, yet, “professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.”

The word “fools” is found in 1Corinthians 1:19-20:

For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?

The word for “made foolish” is the same as “became fools” in our verse. There is just no truth to their idea that they are wise. Actually, they can only think they are wise because of the darkness within them and the ignorance of their mind.