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The Reformation was a time when men went blind, staggering drunk because they had discovered, in the dusty basement of late medievalism, a whole cellar-full of fifteen-hundred-year-old, two-hundred-proof grace—of bottle after bottle of pure distillate of Scripture, one sip of which would convince anyone that God saves us single-handedly. The word of the gospel—after all those centuries of trying to lift yourself into heaven by worrying about perfection—suddenly turned out to be a flat announcement that the saved were home before they started…Grace has to be drunk straight: no water, no ice, and certainly no ginger ale; neither goodness, nor badness, nor flowers that bloom in the spring of super spirituality could be allowed to enter in. ~ Robert Farrar Capon

What is Paul talking about in Romans chapter one?

Jesus said that all the law and the prophets were based on two things. We must love God with our whole being, and love our neighbor. And an overview of God’s acts throughout the scripture shows, among others, this theme:

God loves us.

God hates idolatry.

God hates mankind’s abuse of one another.

Now, since Paul is the apostle of grace, when he talks about sin and judgment, we have to understand the context and see his statements in light of grace. If we don’t, we have Paul saying two contrary and mutually exclusive things.

We are either forgiven, and dead to law and sin, or we must keep confessing sin and obeying the law to keep ourselves on God’s good side. It’s is not both.

Paul clearly says that having begun in the spirit, we cannot continue in law.

If we do, we are fallen from grace – meaning we have left grace and its benefits in our walk with Jesus. (It doesn’t mean we have lost our salvation. He does not un-adopt us.)

When we read Romans 1, particularly verse 26, we have become accustomed to the understanding that he is talking about homosexuality. But traditionally it was not understood that way.

Romans 1:26 says this: (King James) 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

Traditionally, the understanding is that Paul is talking about pagan, idolatrous, practices and rituals.

The Adam Clarke Commentary says, Verse 25. Changed the truth of God into a lie. In the place of the true worship of God, they established idolatry. In various places of Scripture, idols are termed lies. Isaiah 44:20; Jeremiah 10:14; 13:25. The true God was known among the primitive inhabitants of the earth, those who first became idolaters literally changed the truth of God into a lie: they did know the true God, but they put idols in his place.

Verse 26. For this cause God gave them up; idolatry necessarily produced all kinds of impurity. How could it be otherwise, when the highest objects of their worship were adulterers, fornicators, and prostitutes of the most infamous kind, such as Jupiter, Apollo, Mars, Venus, abominable evils with which the apostle charges the Gentiles in this and the following verse. I could produce a multitude of proofs from their own writings; but it is needless to make the subject plainer than the apostle has left it.

Verse 27. Receiving in themselves that recompense, the women and men, by their unnatural prostitutions, enervated their bodies, so that barrenness prevailed, and those disorders which are necessarily attendant on prostitution.

The whole context of this passage is men leaving their knowledge of God and creating their own gods to worship.

They got progressively more depraved in that worship, which employed temple prostitution, involving both males and females.

I like the Message Bible on this:

Romans 1:24-30 So God said, in effect, “If that’s what you want, that’s what you get.” It wasn’t long before they were living in a pigpen, smeared with filth, filthy inside and out. And all this because they traded the true God for a fake god, and worshiped the god they made instead of the God who made them–the God we bless, the God who blesses us.

Oh, yes! Worse followed. Refusing to know God, they soon didn’t know how to be human either–women didn’t know how to be women, men didn’t know how to be men. Sexually confused, they abused and defiled one another, women with women, men with men

– all lust, no love.

And then they paid for it, oh, how they paid for it–emptied of God and love, godless and loveless wretches. Since they didn’t bother to acknowledge God, God quit bothering them and let them run loose. And then all hell broke loose: rampant evil, grabbing and grasping, vicious backstabbing. They made life hell on earth with their envy, wanton killing, bickering, and cheating.

Look at them: mean-spirited, venomous, fork-tongued God-bashers. Bullies, swaggerers, insufferable windbags! They keep inventing new ways of wrecking lives. They ditch their parents when they get in the way.

I have emphasized the part about all lust, no love. Whether someone is gay or straight, debauchery is universally condemned (for it abuses God’s creature – mankind).

Whether gay or straight, loving God and one another is the thing.

I would rather have to account for loving too much than putting burdens on people that no one can stand under. That’s what the Pharisees did. Not for me, thanks. Goodness and love win.

Which takes us back to what Jesus said to do.

The short of it is that there are “experts” on both sides of this. I have chosen to draw a big circle and be inclusive. Now that I’ve done it, a huge weight has lifted. The judging, and dragging the law around, was a heavy burden. I lost the benefit of grace.

Jesus said His yoke was light.

Come to think of it, LOVE is the long of it too.

Because love never fails and love remains. The greatest thing is love.

 

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