No Common Grace in Romans 1 — H. Hoeksema
Delivered to Corruption (Romans 1:24-25)
(Standard Bearer, 1
February, 1997, vol. 73, issue 9; also in
Faith Alone, pp. 32-38)
Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through
the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own
bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God
into a lie, and worshiped and served the creature more
than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen
The main thought of this passage, in its context, can
best be expressed by saying that sin is very successful
and prospers in all that it wills, even unto the end.
The reason for this prospering of sin is the wrath of
God. The wrath of God prospers sin so that it reaches
its purpose. From a spiritual point of view, the sinner
does what he pleases. However, sin prospers more than
the sinner originally planned. He cannot stop.
Let me use a figure. Suppose there is a steep, icy road
that ends in a precipice. A man sets his feet on that
steep, icy road. What will happen? He will go on. He
will be prosperous in his slide down that road. Can he
stop? No, he must go on. Why? You say, "Because of the
law of gravitation." Perhaps this is correct. But what
is the law of gravitation? It is the unchangeable
operation of God in things. God pulls that man down.
Will God stop because a man puts his feet on that
slippery road? No, God does not change. What must happen
if that man is to stop halfway, or rather, if he is to
go up that steep road instead of down? You say, "It
would take a miracle." This is a fitting illustration of
the passage, in its connection.
The slippery road is the process of sin. The man that
puts his feet on that road is the sinner, indeed, the
whole world. On this slippery road, the whole world moves
by nature. The power that pulls the world down is the
unchangeable operation of the wrath of God. The wrath of
God pulls man down from sin to sin, until he reaches the
precipice. The only power that will not only cause man
to stop, but also cause him to go up, is the gospel.
This is why the gospel is the power unto salvation. This
is why the apostle is not ashamed of this gospel.
"The wrath of God is revealed," the apostle has said
(verse 18). When the apostle says that the wrath of God
is revealed from heaven, he does not mean that God in
heaven is angry. But he means to say that there is an
effectual operation of wrath in the world. This wrath is
present. It is around us. It besets us on every side. It
works. In the face of the operation of this wrath, men
hold the truth under in unrighteousness. The truth is
that God is God, that He is glorious, and that He must
be praised and thanked. Men hold this truth under in
unrighteousness. They want to be unrighteous. Therefore,
they hold the truth under in unrighteousness. As soon as
they do, wrath is revealed.
How? God's wrath was revealed in that their hearts were
darkened, so that they became religiously foolish. This
is the punishment of their wanting to perform
unrighteousness. Men held the truth under in
unrighteousness, and God made them so foolish that they
made themselves gods like to corruptible man and to
birds and four-footed beasts and creeping things.
Having made these images, they went on; and their hearts
become more darkened, until finally they believed that
these images they made actually were God.
This is always the case. Some people, for example, will
find all kinds of excuses for not sending their children
to the Christian school. They know better. They know
that they should send them to the Christian school. But
they seek all kinds of excuses. Once having started on
this road, they must go on until they finally believe
their own excuses.
So it is here. Man said, "I do not want to serve and
glorify God." He held the truth under in
unrighteousness. God said, "Go ahead." Then man made
images. He knew these images were not God. But God
darkened his heart. Man was carried on until finally he
believed that these sticks and stones actually were God.
This is the course of sin. The next step is moral
corruption. This is the inevitable result. A man is like
his god. If he makes himself a god, he becomes like the
god he makes. The reason is that wrath pulls him down.
God brings His people into heaven. He also brings the
wicked into hell.
This is the teaching of the text: "Wherefore God also
gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their
own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between
themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and
worshiped and served the creature more than the Creator,
who is blessed forever."
This is the development of sin. Only one power that can
save man from continuing on this road of sin until he
falls into destruction.
The text says that God gave them up to
uncleanness. All sin is uncleanness. But if we
read the rest of this chapter, we will see that the
apostle means something specific. What the apostle means
with uncleanness is that moral state of heart and
mind in which man corrupts himself sexually. Moral filth
is what the apostle has in mind. By this uncleanness,
the apostle means that God gave them over to such a
condition of the heart, will, mind and desires that they
delight in sexual filth. The effect is that they
dishonour their own bodies between themselves.
What the apostle means by this, he explains when he says
that this moral corruption is such that men lusted after
men, and women after women. It began with corruption in
the spirit; it ends with corruption in the body. This is
heathendom. This is civilized Greece and Rome. This is
reality. This is still the case.
The text is an explanation of many things that we see
around us. It is striking that the world that departs
from God gives rise to all manner of uncleanness. Many
of our movies would be out of business if it were not
for the sexual filth shown in them. What is the reason
for the sexually explicit pictures everywhere? Why must
even ordinary ads contain unchastity? Unclean minds make
unclean things. But remember, the text explains it as a
manifestation of the wrath of God. The wrath of God
brings men to hell. The wrath of God brings the world to
Mark well, the text says that God gave them over.
People have tried to explain away the force of this
word. They have even found in this chapter a classic
proof for common grace. They say that God's giving man
over to uncleanness does not mean that God pushes man
into sin. This, they say, would be contrary to God's
holiness. They say, rather, that it means God simply
abandoned them. He simply let them go. He let them go as
I let go my handkerchief so that it falls. God first
held man back on the road of sin. This is called the
restraint of sin. Then God let man go. He stepped out of
man's way so that He did not hold him back anymore. Man
then slipped down on the road of sin.
This is not so. Did you ever see the law of gravity stop
anyone from going down? Romans 1 teaches that the wrath
of God pulls man down. The word used in the original
does not mean "to let go." It rather means "to push
down," "to deliver up." It is the same word that is used
for delivering a prisoner into prison. You do not
deliver a prisoner into prison by letting him go and
letting him walk into prison of his own accord. The same
word is used for the deliverance of Christ into the
hands of wicked men.
In this same way God delivers men unto sin. He does so
in His wrath. The wrath of God is revealed; it operates
in the world. The effect is that men become religiously
foolish and morally corrupt.
The passage teaches, therefore, that God punishes sin
with more sin. The road of the world is sin, wrath, more
sin and more wrath.
How does God do this? How does He do this without
becoming the author of sin? How is it possible? How must
it be explained that the wrath of God, which is the
reaction of His holiness, brings the sinner deeper into
sin? The text says that God does it through the lust of
men's hearts. God gave them up to uncleanness, through
the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own
bodies between themselves.
The heart is the centre of man's life from a spiritual
point of view. Out of the heart are the issues of life.
All our thinking, our willing and our desiring issue
forth from the heart. As the heart is, so is the man,
spiritually, morally, ethically.
Now there is nothing wrong in the fact that the heart
desires. The heart is made to desire. This is the
purpose of the heart. But the normal desire of the
heart, apart from sin, is that it desires after God. It
desires to be pleasing to Him, to serve Him, to glorify
Him. This is the normal desire of the heart. But these
desires become lusts as soon as this heart turns away
from God. Then the heart fastens itself on other
objects, apart from God. It says, "I will no more serve
Upon what does the desire of the heart fasten itself, if
not on God? It fastens itself upon the creature instead
of upon the Creator. It seeks things and it seeks to
press these things into the service of unrighteousness.
This is lust. There are many lusts in the world: lust of
money, lust of honour, lust of position, the lust of the
flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life. The lust
of money is that we press it into the service of
unrighteousness. This is why we have an economic
What does God do? He works upon these lusts by His
anger. He does not let them go. He works in them. He
works in everything. The purpose of God working in these
lusts is to bring man as low as possible. Man says to a
cow, "Thou art my god." God says, "I will see to it that
you fall as far below that god you made as a worshipper
ought to be below his god." Thus man comes to fall below
the beast. He does things a beast will never do.
God does it! God says two things to the sinful world. He
says, "I will take your heart and guide you in the
direction that will bring you lower than the beast you
serve." He says also, "I will lead you to destruction."
Why? The final reason for God's delivering sinners to
destruction is expressed in the words, "Who is
blessed forever. Amen." The meaning is that God is
the only good. Being the only good, He is the only
Blessed One. He is the only Blessed One as the Triune
God. As the infinite good, He wills to become manifest
as the only Blessed One. He wills to become manifest as
the One apart from whom there is no blessedness There
may never be anything in which God does not become
manifest as the Blessed One.
There are two ways in which God becomes manifest as the
only Blessed One. He becomes manifest as such by
blessing those who fear Him. But with this same
unchangeable will to become manifest as the Blessed One,
God assumes an attitude over against the wicked. The
result is that God manifests His wrath by making the
wicked unspeakably wretched. Antithetically, it becomes
manifest that God is blessed forever. Joy and glory are
a testimony that God is blessed forever. Wretchedness
and misery testify, antithetically, that God is blessed
forever. There are but two powers operating in history,
blessing and wrath.
The wrath of God is
revealed when men serve the creature more than the
Creator. This does not mean that they serve the Creator,
too, and that they serve the creature more. No, the
meaning is that they serve the creature instead of the Creator. They change the truth of
God into a lie. And God pushes man down until it becomes
manifest that sin is sin.
I am not ashamed of the gospel. This is the positive
thought. I am not ashamed of the gospel. It is the power
of God unto salvation. It is a power on the slippery
road on which wrath pushes man down and on which all
How can man be saved? By means of instruction? This is
impossible. Salvation is not a matter of education. Man
wants unrighteousness. What will stop him? Shall we give
him an example? There is no example. The whole world is
on that path. No, there must be a power that can change
that wrath into uplifting love. This power we have in
the gospel. The gospel is a power. It is a power to lift
I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is a power of God
unto salvation. The righteous shall live by faith. He
that believeth in Him shall not perish but have
II. Given Over to a Reprobate Mind (Romans 1:28)
(Standard Bearer, 15
February, 1997, vol. 73, issue 9; also in
Faith Alone, pp. 39-45)
And even as they did not like to retain God in their
knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do
those things which are not convenient (Romans 1:28).
In my explanation of verses 24 and 25, I compared the
way and development of sin to a smooth and slippery road
upon which the sinner slides down to destruction. He is
forced down by a power which the apostle described as
the revelation of the wrath of God.
God is the doom of the sinner.
We may compare the development of sin as described in
these last verses of Romans 1 to an organic growth. Sin
can never stop. It must continue to work until it has
corrupted every relation of life. This is not due only
to an inherent power of sin but it is also due to the
fact that God works in sin. God is not the power
of corruption. But God is the power that is able to
cause the sinner to corrupt himself unto the very end.
God works in sin, causing the sinner to go down from
corruption to corruption and to destroy himself.
The beginning was that man did not want to glorify and
thank God. By that beginning, man stands opposed to the
ever present and ever living God. In His wrath, the ever
present and ever living God stands over against that
sinner who will not glorify and thank Him. This wrath
pushes the sinner down.
The apostle mentions three stages in this awful process.
In the first stage, the sinner becomes a religious fool,
so that he bows down before an image made like unto
corruptible man, and birds, and beasts, and creeping
things. When man refuses to glorify and thank God, the
first downward step is always that man bows down before
an image. It makes no difference whether he carves this
image in wood or stone, as the heathen did, or whether
he carves it in his mind, as do the modernists of
The second stage the apostle pictures in verses 24-27.
God gave them over, the apostle says, to the stage that
makes them lower than the beast. If a man wants to
worship the beast, why should he not become lower than
the beast he worships? But wrath does not stop with this
one sin. Sin does not stop. It goes on until it bears
fruit in every relation of life; hence, the third stage
is that God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do
those things which are not convenient.
What this means is described in the following verses.
When God gives the sinner over to a reprobate mind,
three things happen. In the first place, the sinner
becomes filled with all manner of unrighteousness, such
as fornication, wickedness, covetousness, and
maliciousness. Being so filled with unrighteousness, he
becomes filled with all vices, such as envy, murder,
deceit, and malignity. The final result is that he
begins to act. When God gives men over to a reprobate
mind, they become whisperers, backbiters, haters of God,
despiteful, proud and the like.
Is there any hope? What shall we do in such a world?
Shall we build up institutions of education? With these
institutions of education, the world goes to hell.
Shall we reform this world? With this reformation the
world goes to hell.
Shall we have federations? Men who slide down, when they
federate, slide down together.
No, we shall say, "I am not ashamed of the gospel of
Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation."
The mind is man's moral judgment. It is that faculty of
man by which he is able to distinguish between good and
evil. It is that faculty of man by which he can
distinguish between the truth and the lie, between
righteousness and unrighteousness. Not only does the
mind distinguish but also it is that faculty that
counsels the will. We might say that the mind is our
moral attorney. It tells us what we should do and what
we should not do. This is the function of the mind.
Now the text speaks of a reprobate mind. The original
uses a word meaning a mind "not approved." It refers to
a mind that has been put to the test and has failed. It
is a mind that has been condemned and rejected. It is a
mind that does not function properly. The proper
function of the mind would be to distinguish between
what is good and what is evil. Having so distinguished,
it is the function of the mind to persuade the will to
determine what is good. The function of the mind is not
only to distinguish between good and evil, but also to
persuade the will to determine what is in accord with
the will of God.
A reprobate mind functions perversely. Suppose that one
must give testimony in a certain case. A reprobate mind
distinguishes between what is the truth and what is the
lie concerning this case; however, at the same time this
mind compiles all kinds of lies and persuades the will
to tell the lie. This is a reprobate mind, one that
distinguishes between good and evil, but persuades one
to choose that which is evil. Of this mind the apostle
To this reprobate mind, God gave man over. This
giving over is not meant in a passive sense. The
word does not mean "to let go." God cannot let things
go. A God who lets things go, we do not fear. But the
word means that God takes the sinner and delivers him up
to corruption or, to change the figure, pushes him down
from corruption to corruption.
God is the doom of the sinner.
When the text says that God gave man over to a reprobate
mind, that is, when God gave him over to such moral
judgment, the meaning is not that God makes man's
judgment corrupt. His judgment is already corrupt. The
mind is already corrupt, when man refuses to glorify and
thank God. It is already the judgment of a reprobate
mind that changed the glory of the incorruptible God
into an image of corruptible man and of beasts. God had
already given him over, when he fell into all kinds of
Rather, the text means that God gave man over to bear
the fruit of sin to its fullest extent in every relation
of life. There is a working of God in man's soul, in his
mind, in his will, in his desires. This working is a
working of wrath. God works in this mind in wrath. In
what way? He causes this mind to bear all the possible
fruits of sin.
What are the possible fruits of sin? The next verse
tells us. The result of God giving man over to a
reprobate mind is that he begins to bear every possible
fruit of corruption, so that he becomes filled with
every possible unrighteousness. He does not become
totally corrupt. He already was totally corrupt. But he
bears every possible fruit of unrighteousness.
When God influences the thistle, it bears fruit. When
God influences the good tree, it brings forth good
fruit. When He influences the corrupt tree, it brings
forth corrupt fruit. When God influences the sinner, he
becomes filled with every form of unrighteousness.
What is this? The description in verse 29 lists
fornication, wickedness, covetousness (greed of every
kind), and maliciousness (the desire to do someone
When he has borne this fruit in its general motives, he
bears still more fruit. He becomes "full of envy,
murder, debate, deceit, malignity." Under the influence
of God's wrath, the reprobate mind bears fruit.
So it was with the world of Rome. So it is with the
world of today. If we scratch off a little of the
varnish, what do we find? We find these things. These
things are boiling at the fountain heads of the world.
What is the result? This is expressed in verse 28. Man
does things that are unseemly. The inner motives bear
fruit in actions. The man that is full of envy, etc.,
begins to act. What does he do? He does things that are
unseemly. Notice that the text says that this is the
intended result. "God gave them over to a reprobate
mind, to do things which are not convenient." This is
God's purpose. This is the purpose of His anger. The
purpose of God is not to hold the sinner back. The
purpose is that the sinner become manifest in all his
folly and corruption. If this is to become manifest, the
sinner must act. God will not let the sinner rest
until he does things in order that he may become ripe
for judgment and that it may become manifest that God
alone is good.
They do things that are not
convenient, that is,
things that are not fitting or proper. The emphasis of
the text is that these things do not fit with the way
God rules things. If I put my hand in the fire, God
keeps right on working in that fire. The result is that
I burn my hand. So God causes man to do things that do
not fit with the way He rules.
What these things are the apostle indicates in
verse 29 and following: whisperers (people who secretly
talk about you), backbiters (wagging of the tongue when
you are not present), haters of God (literally, in the
original, hated of God), despiteful, proud,
boasters, inventors of evil things (inventors of things
with which to evil), disobedient to parents (setting
aside all authority), without understanding, covenant
breakers (unfaithful in any relation of life), without
natural affection, so that the woman can give up the
child of her bosom.
This is the result. This was the case in the Roman
world. These sins came forth out of that one sin of not
wanting to glorify and thank God. These sins lie at the
bottom of the woe of the world of today. It is these
sins that destroy the home, that destroy society, that
destroy the world.
What shall we do?
I will go a step further. These sins are in your heart
and in my heart. I do not mean to say that every one of
these sins is in the heart of every individual, but all
these sins are in the hearts of men in general, so that
the one manifests this sin and the other another sin.
These sins are in your heart and in mine.
This is the, doom of the sinful world.
God forces it down from corruption to corruption and
into destruction, into hell.
Why does God do this? The text explains it. The apostle
says, "Even as" is the sin, so is the punishment.
Even as what?
What was the sin?
The sin was that they did not like to retain God in
their knowledge. That is, they did not want to keep the
true knowledge of God in their mind. They knew God but
they did not want to keep this knowledge of God in their
mind. The original uses a strong expression. The
original means they did not think God worthy to keep in
mind. They knew God. They considered whether they would
keep God in mind. They came to the conclusion that God
was not fit to keep in mind.
Didn't they know any better? Was it an error on their
part? No. They wanted to live in unrighteousness. It was
not an intellectual error. It was a moral question. They
did not want to keep God in mind.
Even as they did not see fit to keep God in mind, so God
gave them over to an unfit mind, to do things that are
unfit. Why? Because it must become manifest that he who
does not think God fit to keep in mind must run to
What shall we do? Nothing—not if our intention is
merely to reform the world by all kinds of human acts.
What shall we do? We shall conclude that it is hopeless.
It is the wrath of God that is at the bottom of it all.
It is the wrath of God that is at the bottom even of
war, of the present confusion of the world and of the
What shall we do? Shall we call a Prayer Day? This is
folly. Away with all that is of man! From the point of
view of man, it is hopeless. Why? Because it is the
wrath of God that takes hold of man and pulls him down
into hell. Let us confess that it is hopeless.
What shall we do? We shall say, "I am not ashamed of the
gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto
salvation." For what do we need? We need righteousness.
We need holiness. We need a power to snatch us away from
the wrath of God. The gospel is a revelation of the
righteousness of God, which is by faith in Christ
This gospel is a power. It is not an offer, but it is a
power taking man out of the power of sin and lifting him
up into the glory of everlasting life.
Hopeless, from the point of view of man and of the
Full of hope—in the cross of Calvary!
The righteous shall live by faith.
Does Romans 1:24, 26 and 28 Teach Common Grace?
Herman Hoeksema and Henry Danhof
(Sin and Grace,
Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through
the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own
bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God
into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more
than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. For
this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for
even their women did change the natural use into that
which is against nature: And likewise also the men,
leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their
lust one toward another; men with men working that which
is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence
of their error which was meet. And even as they did not
like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them
over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are
not convenient (Romans 1:24-28).
A popular interpretation and explanation of Romans
1:24-28 is as follows:
In the old dispensation, a certain operation of
common grace was revealed from heaven that checked sin
and restrained the operation of destruction [occasioned
by the Fall].
However, God gradually caused this restraining
operation to dwindle (diminish gradually). This is
evident from the term "gave them over" that appears
repeatedly in this chapter (Romans 1). This word means
that God withdrew Himself. And, by this withdrawal or
dwindling of common grace, man fell into all kinds of
debauchery, which the apostle sums up in this chapter.
That God caused His common grace to dwindle had its
reason in idolatry. As punishment, God now held back His
common grace and, consequently, sinful man cast himself
into the debauchery and impurity mentioned here by Paul.
We wish to remark, first of all, that regardless of the
exegetical problems, this is actually no explanation of
the passage at all. The reasoning of Dr. Abraham Kuyper
(who originated this interpretation of Romans 1) is that
by God's gracious "restraint" of sin, man still knew God
and still possessed the light of God's revelation in
creation. Now a question arises: If the restraint of sin
also implied that man knew God and thereby was kept from
idolatry, how did he arrive at the first step in which
he represented God as a beast or creeping animal? Before man could come to that, a dwindling or
withdrawing of the common grace must have already
occurred. There is no other possibility, unless you
make the restraint of sin a resistible grace; and if it
is that, then no dwindling is necessary, for then man
can overcome God's resistible grace.
The situation, according to Kuyper's viewpoint, is
therefore this: God first had to cause His common grace
to dwindle so that man fell into idolatry. Then God
caused His common grace to dwindle still more, so that
man fell into the debauchery and filthiness mentioned
here in this chapter. But if that is the case, the
question arises, "Why did God cause His common grace to
dwindle at all?" Dr. Kuyper still owes us an answer to
that. This certainly is not an explanation.
But exegetically his explanation of the text is
We briefly follow the apostle in his argument:
The apostle is "separated unto the gospel of God" (Rom.
1:1). The content of that gospel that he must proclaim in
the world is that there is "a righteousness of God," a
righteousness prepared by God, a righteousness also
given by God alone, and given only through faith. The
gospel is therefore a power of God unto salvation.
Now the apostle says
that he is not ashamed of the gospel of God. On
the one hand, he is not ashamed of it because it is a
power of God unto salvation. It gives a
righteousness that is only from God and can only be
accepted by God. On the other hand, he is not
ashamed of the gospel because the world is in need of
that righteousness. It has no righteousness of its
own. Therefore, it also has no blessing. It
has only wrath and the curse: "For the wrath of God is
revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and
unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in
unrighteousness" (Rom. 1:18). Take note: the wrath
of God is revealed from heaven. Paul sees
in the world and its situation and history a revelation
of the operation of God's wrath. God's wrath is
over all ungodliness and
unrighteousness of mankind.
The question is: In what does the apostle see that
revelation of the wrath of God?
When the apostle looks around in the world, he sees
amazing things. From a religious point of view, man has
become a fool. In fact, here he sees someone bowing
before an ox; there someone humbly bows before a snake;
yonder man worships a frog; and elsewhere he lies in the
dust in front of a man. Thus man is become foolish. He
is confused, totally darkened. In this way, the wisdom
of the world becomes a horrible spectacle. "Professing
themselves to be wise, they became fools" (Rom. 1:22).
But there is still more. The apostle sees how, not only
from a spiritual point of view man has become foolish
and bows before man and beast, before four-footed and
creeping things, but also from a moral point of view he
has fallen into the horrible depths of debauchery. Men
with men work that which is unseemly; women with women
perpetrate impurity; men burn with lust toward each
other and sink lower than the animal. There is no sin
in the ethical realm which, according to the apostle,
does not reveal itself in the deed (Rom. 1:26-32). That
is how the apostle regards the world of his time: not
the world of the [uneducated] Kaffir or Hottentot, but
of the Greek and the Roman.
Now the apostle sets himself before the question, How
did that come about? If you say no more, you can never
explain this condition out of sin as such. That a man
bows down before a frog or a snake is more than sin. It
is also foolishness. That has not always been the
case. Cain was just as spiritually dead as the Greek or
the Roman. But he surely would not bow before a cow. He still knew God; it is deep misery, a horrible
degeneration below the beast. Therefore, the question
is this: How did sin develop to the point that man
became so foolish, so miserable?
To that the apostle answers, "The wrath of God is
revealed from heaven" (Rom. 1:18). There has been an
organic development of sin. On the one hand, the
situation was such that God's eternal power and Godhead
were revealed in creation. Man stood amid the plain
speech of God. Nor was it true that he did not know
that speech. He clearly saw God in His work. He had
natural light. He knew that God is eternal in power and
godliness. He was aware that God must be served. Sin
is not insanity; darkness is not ignorance. "Because
that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for
God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things
of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen,
being understood by the things that are made, even his
eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without
excuse: Because that, when they knew God ..." (Rom.
But even though that was the case, even though there was
a manifestation of God, even though the light shone and
man also saw this light, the darkness of sin was that
he, sinful man, despised that light. Darkness is no
ignorance, no lack of the consciousness of God, but
rather enmity against God (Rom.8:7). That is
what man revealed when he refused to bow before God and
would not glorify or thank Him as God. Neither did Cain
want this, although he was not as foolish as the Roman.
That was man's sin, for which he has no excuse. Is it
not true, therefore, that God stood on the opposite
side, revealing His wrath upon all ungodliness and
unrighteousness? And the influence of that wrath of God
upon that God-despising godlessness of man was such that
man became foolish. God spoke in history: "If you, O
man, standing amid my revelation, will not honour and
thank Me as God, I cast you down in foolishness until
you bow before a frog and a snake." Thus, there is no
restraining grace, but a wrath of God that in all the
history steadily pushes deeper and deeper. This is
taught by the apostle in Romans 1. That operation of
wrath worked continually. God does not allow Himself,
never allows Himself, to be mocked, not for a single
moment in all history. He always remains the same. And
the man who assaults Him is pushed away by Him (unless
saving grace intervenes) until he finally ends up in
Therefore, God also gave them over to dissoluteness and
filthiness whereby they continually became more
miserable. Nor is the argument of the apostle that
God stood idly by, withholding His restraining hand. The idea is rather that He revealed Himself in wrath in
such a way that the bold sinner finally sank away into
that which was lower than the animal. The "giving
up" mentioned in Romans 1:24, 26 and 28 is not passive,
but active; not negative, but positive. And
then, obviously, not in this way: that God is the cause
of sin. He does not cause man to sin, but in His divine
wrath He guides the development of sin in such a
direction that man makes himself dissolute.
This shows plainly that Romans 1 does not teach a
restraint of sin, but an organic development of
wickedness under the constant influence of the wrath of
God, actively humiliating man and bringing him to
foolishness and debauchery.
Herman Hoeksema also expounds Romans 1 in his booklet
A Triple Breach:
Romans 1 teaches very clearly that there is a constant
and general manifestation of the wrath of God over all
unrighteousness and ungodliness of men who hold the
truth under in unrighteousness (verse 18). And this
wrath of God over and against the wickedness of men
becomes manifest especially in this: that God gives the
ungodly over into worse corruption and deeper mire of
sin (verses 24, 26, 28). And this wrath of God
manifested in the "giving over" of the sinner into more
sin and more corruption is revealed throughout all
history, from its very beginning, according to the
chapter, for it has its reason in the fact that man,
knowing God, would not glorify Him as God, neither would
be thankful, and this is true from the beginning of
history to the present day. Hence, the chapter teaches
exactly the opposite of the declaration of the Synod of
Kalamazoo in the Three Points [of 1924]. The latter declares: that
there is a general operation of grace by the Holy
Spirit whereby corruption is checked in the nature
of man. But the first chapter of Romans teaches: that
there is a general operation of wrath, revealed by
God from heaven, whereby man is given over from
corruption to deeper corruption. Anyone may verify the
truth of this explanation by following the reasoning of
the apostle Paul in this chapter from verse 18 to the