Many times throughout the Bible, it is written that “God gave them up,” and, in each instance, reference is made to the principle of retribution.
God’s giving people up was not capricious, but founded upon the righteous premise that such conduct deserved the adverse judgment it received.
There is also observed here the concept of punishment fitting the crime, or “retribution in kind”; for it is not said merely that God gave them up, but that “even as” they had refused to have God in their knowledge, God delivered them over to a reprobate mind, making their reprobacy correspond to the reprobate act of forsaking the knowledge of God.
The same thought is expressed in Romans 1:27 where the judgment was mentioned as one that “was due.”
WHEN GOD GIVES UP ON PEOPLE
In the paragraph above, Paul affirmed that for just reasons God gave up on some people; but that was hardly a new concept.
The psalmist noted that, “My people hearkened not to my voice; and Israel would none of me. So I let them go after the stubbornness of their heart, that they might walk in their own counsels.” (Psalms 81:11,12)
The martyr Stephen likewise said, “But God turned and gave them up to serve the host of heaven.” (Acts 7:42)
The extent of man’s ruin that inevitably follows when God gives him up involves the total moral, intellectual, and physical nature of man.
The dwarf peoples in some parts of earth show that man’s physical body suffers the penalty of sin, some sins, in particular, being cited in scripture as sins against “the body” (1 Corinthians 6:18).
The affections of people are corrupted (Romans 1:26), and they reach a state of loving darkness rather than the light (John 3:20).
The intellect is darkened, and people become vain, or foolish, in their imaginations (Romans 1:21).
Also, there is finally an adverse, punitive change effected in people, that being the action that God himself takes against the incorrigibly wicked.
For example: Because they received not the love of the truth that they might be saved; and for this cause, God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believed not the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness (2 Thessalonians 2:8-12 KJV).
Thus, the ruin that ensues when God gives man up is fourfold: physical, moral, intellectual, and physical.
The specific sins revealed in scripture as causing God to give man up are:
- (1) Sinning against the Light (Romans 1:21)
- (2) Refusing to Give God Thanks (Romans 1:21)
- (3) Vain Imaginations (Romans 1:21-22)
- (4) Worshipping and serving the creature rather than the Creator (Romans 1:25)
But perhaps these specifics are but facets of a greater sin encompassing all these things, namely, that of the deification of humanity.
It is the invariable and instinctive thrust of hearts filled with Satan, that they would slay God and take his place, thus partaking of the primeval sin of Eve who believed the Satanic lie that “Ye shall be as gods knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5).
In these times, people are still deifying humanity in a thousand ways, traveling old forbidden roads to ruin, as witnessed by the widespread neglect of religion and the worship of God, and the increasing secularization of the total life of the people.
Wherever people exalt self, wherever people’s words are preferred and heeded, rather than God’s word, wherever images that are “like” people are bowed down to and consecrated, and wherever may be accepted the foolish notion that the solution of man’s problems lies within man – there the creature is worshipped and served more than the Creator.
The step-by-step progression of the spiritual condition of them that turn away from God is outlined in the three short paragraphs in this part of Paul’s letter, each of them beginning with the statement that God gave them up.
What happens to the worship of God under conditions prevailing after God has given man up?
- (1) There is the conscious neglect of God’s worship, coupled with ingratitude and failure to give God thanks for all his mercies.
- As a consequence of this, the mind itself is darkened (Romans 1:21).
- (2) Next, idolatry ensues with the worship of things more and more abased, first, images of people, then worship of birds, beasts, and finally creeping things – all of this accompanied by sensuality.
- (3) God gives them up to the sensuality they have preferred, with the resultant immorality.
- (4) God gives them up even further to the progressive erosion of the very principle of morality, leading to perversion and depravity of both sexes.
- (5) Finally, God gives them up to complete and irreversible reprobacy of mind, leading to conditions in people that deserve the sentence of death to be executed upon them (Romans 1:28-32).
All of the horrors of Gentile paganism began with neglect of the worship of God and the omission of thanksgiving due to the Father, and this surely suggests that such sins are not merely “faults,” but are radical and determinative.
Thus, there can be nothing more important for humanity than a willing acceptance of divine light and the constant love and pursuit of it, coupled with diligent worship, prayer, and thanksgiving, which things will polarize the soul with reference to its Maker, and perpetuate the knowledge of God upon the earth.
Failure to observe such an important duty will cut all the roots which nourish the flowers of every truth and virtue.
This signals the withdrawal of the Holy Spirit from those who already had hardened their hearts against God, and we find in this the first Scriptural instance of Judicial Hardening, a phenomenon witnessed again and again throughout the Bible.
It is not so designated here, but that is undeniably what it is. This is equivalent in every way to Paul’s statement regarding a later evil generation that, “God gave them up …” (Romans 1:24,26,28).
This is different from causing men to sin, but it always leads to the proliferation and intensity of sin.
It means that God will, at last, allow men the right of choosing sin, if they must.
The result in this instance of it was the complete corruption of humanity (Noah and his family excepted), after the manner described below in Genesis 6:6-8.