In Romans 1:18-22 the apostle Paul traces the downward course of human departure from God, beginning from ingratitude to Him in verse 21, to the deepest moral depravity in the statements that follow. In verse 18 he says that “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” – a warning we would do well to heed in these critical days. It all begins with ingratitude to God.
Three times Paul says that “God gave them up (over)” to pursue their misguided departure from Him. God lets us experience the consequences of departure from Him with a redemptive purpose – to awaken us and bring us back to Him. That should instruct churches and Christians today concerning our role in such a time as this. It is to be a redemptive, healing influence in our society.
Many have been offended by Paul’s teaching in these verses, regarding them as harsh and judgmental. They need to read the context – what precedes and what follows.
Paul begins the entire letter to the Christians at Rome by expressing his strong desire to visit Rome and preach the gospel of Christ there. Rome was the supreme example of the depravity he goes on to describe in chapter one. Knowing that, he says in verse 16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes … “ His motive was not just condemnation, but redemption and transformation. This is the heart of the gospel (the good news) of Christ. No one is beyond redemption and transformation by God’s compassion and power. That is his message.
Next, notice in the beginning of chapter two how Paul follows his teaching in chapter one: He says, “Therefore, you are inexcusable, 0 man, whoever you are that judge, for in whatsoever you judge another you condemn yourself …” He is speaking to Christians. Given the wrong examples and influences we are all capable of the sins he describes. Therefore, our attitude should be humility, compassion and love – “speaking the truth in love …,” as he says in Ephesians 4:15.
Paul acknowledges this in his personal testimony to Timothy in 1 Timothy 1: 15 when he says, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” All Christians are recovering sinners sent by the Lord and Savior to others who are struggling with sin and its consequences to give them hope in Christ.
When we cease to be thankful to God for all his mercies and blessings we begin a perilous downward course that can bring us into degradation and ruin. Gratitude to God glorifies him and blesses us.