Every culture has had its opportunities to know God. "What may be
known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of
the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that
are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse" (Rom.
1:19,20). Certainly our American society has had countless opportunities to know God.
What happens to a country or culture that refuses to acknowledge God? This is carefully
explained to us in Romans, Chapter 1. Let us note carefully the characteristics and
compare them to events that are taking place around us today.
1. They become futile in their thoughts and their foolish hearts are
darkened (v.21). Becoming godless in their thinking, they engage in foolish and stupid
speculations and their minds are filled with darkness.
2. Professing to be wise, they become fools (v.22). Claiming to be
smart, they actually arrive at stupid conclusions.
3. They change the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made
like corruptible man (v.23). Their image of God resembles mortal man. This image may not
necessarily be a physical and visible image. It might be an image in their thoughts
expressed in their writings, cartoons, jokes, and movies.
4. They exchange the truth of God for a lie (v.25). They would sooner
believe the prefabrications of men than accept the truth of God.
5. They worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator (v.25).
They glorify their fellow-men but refuse to glorify the God of heaven. Men may be extolled
in their public gatherings, but it is unlawful to even mention the name of God.
6. They have been given over to vile passions. Women practice what is
against nature. The men with men, commit what is shameful (vv.26,27). Homosexuality
becomes widespread to the point that it is accepted as an alternative lifestyle even
though it is obviously against the normal practices of nature all around us.
7. They do those things which are not fitting (v.28). The things they
do are really abhorrent, repulsive, and disgusting.
8. And then comes a long list of other evil practices. It is a dark
list of twenty-three indictments. They range from charges that could result in death
sentences, such as murder (v.29) to charges that many would label as commendable, such as
boasters and inventors of evil things (v.30). The list includes sins of corruption, which
are outwardly manifested, such as sexual immorality (v.29), disobedience to parents
(v.30), and unmerciful (v.31). They also include sins of the heart that only God can see,
but yet they are sins that eventually produce tragic and painful consequences. These are
sins such as covetousness, maliciousness, envy, strife, deceit (v.29), backbiters, haters
of God, proud (v.30), untrustworthy, unloving and unforgiving (v.31). The list reminds us
of the days before the flood, when it was stated that the "Lord saw that the
wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his
heart was only evil continually" (Gen. 6:5).
As we look around us, we are enabled to see that our culture in rapidly
taking on these characteristics. Only a fool, who buries his head in the sand like a
ostrich, can fail to see the deterioration of our godless society. It cannot be approved
and it certainly cannot be overlooked. The greatest condemnation of the whole list appears
at the end of the chapter when it states, "who, knowing the righteous judgment of
God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but
also approve of those who practice them" (v. 32). Neither can our culture be changed
or improved. It is a mistake for the church to involve itself in reform movements because
we cannot reform a society that has turned away from God’s light and is under the
judgment of God.
Rather verses 15 and 16 give us the key to our responsibility. The
Gospel, which calls men and women out of this world to be citizens of another world, is
the power of God which brings salvation to a condemned world. "So, as much as is in
me, I am ready to preach the gospel....for I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for
it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes."