by John MacArthur Monday, January 11, 2021
We rightly shudder at the eternal consequences of sin, and the perpetual punishment that awaits unrepentant sinners. But we would do well to also consider the temporal cost of sin. We need to recognize how it pollutes, perverts, and corrupts—and particularly its destructive influence on the sinner.
Paul wrote about the consequences of rejecting God in his epistle to the Romans. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them” (Romans 1:18–19). Planted in the heart of every human being is the knowledge of God. We don’t need to be told that God exists—our ability to reason, to understand the simplicity of cause and effect, is enough to point us to the existence of our Creator. In this case, the effect screams for the reality of the cause.
Paul makes that very point: “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse” (v. 20). No one can claim ignorance of God’s existence—His creative work leaves them no excuse for rejecting Him.
The apostle continues, describing the extreme and irrational lengths men will go to in their attempts to deny God’s creative authority over this world:
For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. (Romans 1:21–23)
When sinners reject God, they rebel against reason. Reason recognizes that the intricacies of creation testify to a Creator—that His creation speaks to His character and nature, and points to His full self-revelation in His Word. But rebellion actually extinguishes man’s capacity for reason altogether—Paul says they become fools with darkened hearts, as they run from reason into the illogic of false gods and idolatry just to escape the truth about God.
But the tragic consequences of rejecting God don’t end there. In one of the most profound passages in all of Scripture, Paul illustrates the devastating results that follow, as God unleashes the full corruption of their sinful rebellion.
Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them. (Romans 1:24–32)
That repeated phrase, “God gave them over,” is legal terminology—God is handing those who reject Him over for the execution of His sentence and punishment. He turns them over to the pursuit of their sinful desires, and the destruction that follows.
Space won’t allow for a thorough exposition of these verses, but we need to pause long enough to recognize our own society amidst the rubble. God’s judgment turns people over to a sexual revolution, until the whole culture is swimming in a septic tank of pornography. Consider the way our society aggressively sexualizes children, corrupting their view of God’s design before they can even fully comprehend it. And it doesn’t end there—the sexual revolution gives way to a homosexual revolution that ushers in transgenderism and other kinds of unspeakable deviance. Such perversion has so thoroughly permeated our culture that we’re now debating the question of how young is too young for children to begin mutilating their bodies in defiance of God’s creative design.
Paul says such corruption ultimately leads to a “depraved mind” (v.28)—that is, a mind that doesn’t function. It’s the inability to think straight or do right. It defaults to wickedness, selfishness, strife, and all the other sinful dispositions Paul describes. Moreover, the depraved mind applauds and promotes those who sin likewise. Today we have political parties that have constructed their platforms on killing babies in the womb, destroying the structure of the family, promoting sexual perversion, and many of the other sins Paul describes here in Romans 1. And with the hearty approval of other depraved minds, they are elected to office where they can institute and normalize their corruption.
What we see, then—both on the pages of Scripture and in the chaotic world around us—is the dreadful cost of rejecting God. On top of man’s natural sinfulness is the added reality of divine judgment unleashing the full consequences of man’s rebellion. Based on the biblical testimony, we see mankind’s sinful corruption is systemic—not socially, but personally—and no one escapes. It’s not related to a lack of opportunity, money, privilege, or education. Man is a naturally sinful beast who rejects God and His law. All of us are born with that internal wretchedness that corrupts and defiles. It scars beauty, darkens wisdom, defiles love, robs purity, and steals peace.
That brings us to a natural question: If man’s corruption truly runs that deep, is there any hope of restraining the sinful chaos it creates? Since humanity is so depraved, deceitful, degenerate, destructive, and deadly, how did God ever expect us to survive? How did He expect us to get through this life with any measure of meaning, fulfillment and joy—or even simply to civilize, socialize, and survive?
We’ll unpack the biblical answers to those questions next time.
(Adapted from Chaos, Corruption, and the Christian Response)