03 September, 2016

Romans 1:24, 26, 28—“… For this cause God gave them up …”

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 (Rom. 1:24-28).

Dr. Abraham Kuyper, as well as others, appealed to this passage in support of the doctrine of the “inward restraint of sin by the work of the Holy Spirit.” Those who hold to this position appealed especially to the expressions “Wherefore God also gave them up …” (v. 24) and “For this cause God gave them up …” (v. 26). They argue that if God “gave these idolaters up,” He had, prior to giving them up, “restrained” them.


Prof. Herman C. Hanko


[Source: Another Look at Common Grace (2019 edition), pp. 147, 151]

In the first place. God’s act of giving up the wicked to their vile affections does not imply that, prior to giving them up, God had indeed restrained them. Such a conclusion is invalid on the very face of it. But, in the second place, if indeed God had restrained them, prior to giving them up, surely anyone can see that the text makes no mention of the fact that such restraint was accomplished by an “inward work of the Holy Spirit in the heart.” ([It is to be noted, however, that we have] no objection to the idea of the restraint of sin, as long as that restraint was outward, by means of God’s providence, HH.)
But however that may be, the text makes no mention whatsoever of any kind of grace of God towards these wicked; nor does it speak of any kind of revelation of God in grace.


We ought to note that: God punishes sin with sin. And He, in His holy wrath, punishes idolatry with homosexuality. “Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves” (v. 24). And again, “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 ...” (vv. 26ff.).


[Source: Common Grace Considered (2019 edition), pp. 213-214]

The meaning of [this text] is, [in connection with the context of verses 18-32], that God punishes sin with sin.  God’s wrath is revealed in His terrible judgments upon the wicked. One of those judgments is that God pushes, as it were, the sinner into greater sin. Romans 1 uses the language, “gives them over.”  Idolaters, who change the glory of God into an image made like unto corruptible man, are punishedby being given over to homosexuality.  History is replete with examples of this. God is, after all, sovereign.  He gives the sinner over to the sin that his wicked heart craves.  Sin multiplies and becomes worse.  And all this takes place until the cup of iniquity is filled. But all this has nothing to do with any kind of “inner restraint of sin in the hearts of the wicked.”



Herman Hoeksema (1886-1965)


[Source: The Protestant Reformed Churches in America (1947), pp. 372-374]

22.   Is this interpretation [i.e. that the phrase “to give them up” or “He gave them over” merely means a “ceasing from restraining them any longer”] tenable?
No, for in the first place it does not allow the full significance to the term “to give up” or “to give over.” The word used in the original in the passages quoted by synod is frequently employed in Scripture and always refers to a positive act of delivering up. Thus the word is used in all the four gospel narratives to denote the act of Pilate whereby the he delivered up Jesus to be crucified, where the word certainly cannot signify the same as “to let go.” And in this sense it is used in many other places, while it never has the meaning which the synod would ascribe to it in the passages quoted. Hence, the interpretation of synod distorts the true meaning of Scripture in these passages.

23.   Is there not another reason why the interpretation of synod is untenable?
Yes, the reason namely, that no such restraint of sin can possibly be presupposed as preceding the moment of the “giving up” in any of the passages quoted. The very opposite is true. In Psalm 81:11, 12 and Acts 7:42 the reference is to wicked Israel, to whom God had sent His word by Moses and the prophets, but who had constantly revealed that they would not hearken to the voice of the Lord. They had not been restrained by an operation of common grace, but, on the contrary, they were hardened in sin. Sin had taken its course and over against the Word of God had hardened their hearts. It was then that the Lord turned to give them up to worship all the host of heaven. The giving up, therefore, is a positive act of God as a punishment for their sin in which they had developed and increased.
Still more clearly evident this is in the passages which synod quoted from the first chapter of the epistle to the Romans. From verses 18-23, the apostle certainly does not describe a restraining influence of the Holy Spirit upon the wicked heathen world, whereby the heathen had lived a morally good life in this world, but, on the contrary, speaks of a manifestation of the wrath of God from heaven all through the ages of history, from the very beginning of the world’s sinful course against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who hold the truth in ungodliness. Instead of common grace, wrath is, therefore, revealed from heaven. And instead of a tolerably good life as a fruit of the operation of the Holy Spirit, there is found in men a holding of the truth in unrighteousness. They knew God, but they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful. And what was God’s attitude over against this ungodliness of wicked men? Did He restrain them? Did He cause a gracious operation of the Holy Spirit to work in their hearts, so that they would not corrupt themselves? The very opposite is taught in the passages which synod quotes. He gave them over. He made them foolish, so that they worshipped men and beasts and creeping things. And not only did He deliver them up to religious folly and darkness, but He also gave them up to moral uncleanness and corruption, to vile affections, to a reprobate mind, to do things which are not convenient.
Except for the fact, then, that the synodical committee that composed the three points and the synod after them blindly followed Dr. A. Kuyper, Sr., in the use and application he makes of these passages, it may be considered inexplicable that these passages were at all adduced in support of the second point. They teach the very opposite from that which synod attempted to set forth.


[Source: The Rock Whence We Are Hewn (RFPA, 2015), p. 406]

Further, synod referred to a triplet of texts, Psalm 81:12–13; Acts 7:42; and Romans 1:24–26, 28, which teach that God gives the sinner over to all manner of evil, iniquity, and corruption. No exegesis can possibly deduce from these passages the doctrine of a general operation of the Holy Spirit whereby the progress of corruption is checked in the fallen human nature. Directly the texts teach exactly the opposite, for “to give over” is the very opposite of “to restrain.” Nor do the texts presuppose a restraint by the Holy Spirit prior to the giving over.

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 (v. 18), and that the wrath of God against the wickedness of men becomes manifest especially in God’s giving the ungodly over into worse corruption and deeper mire of sin (vv. 24, 26, 28). The wrath of God manifested in his giving the sinner over is revealed throughout history from its very beginning, according to the chapter, for its cause is that man, knowing God, would not glorify him as God and be thankful.

Hence the chapter teaches exactly the opposite from the declaration of synod. The synod 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 into deeper corruption. Anyone may verify the truth of this explanation by following the reasoning of the apostle Paul in verses 18–32.



More to come! (DV)

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