Romans 1:32, “Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.”
Can human beings do anything more evil than what we read in Romans 1:18–31? Is there something worse than rejecting God’s glory and serving idols? Do we ever go farther in our transgression than telling the Creator who gave us life that we will not bow to His guidelines for governing our lives? Yes, there is something worse than worshiping images—misusing the Lord’s gift of human sexuality, murder, and the other vices that Paul lists. One final act of depravity is more heinous than all others— approving wickedness and those who practice it, even when we know it is sin, makes us deserving of death (v. 32).
In today’s passage, Paul reveals the nadir of human sin, the lowest point to which we fall as a consequence of our suppression of the knowledge of God. While shame for transgressing what is good and holy is not sufficient in itself to absolve us, at least it openly confesses what we all know in our heart of hearts—that there is a God in heaven to whom we are accountable. To lack such shame is to put oneself beyond any hope of making oneself right with the Lord. To nod approvingly in the direction of sin is the ultimate rejection of God, the final insult, if you will. John Calvin comments, “It is the summit of all evils, when the sinner is so void of shame, that he is pleased with his own vices, and will not bear them to be reproved, and also cherishes them in others by his consent and approbation.”
Approving what is evil shows that we have fallen as far as possible. It demonstrates that we are fully hardened against God and spiritually dead. But what is most astonishing about this truth is that the Apostle says we are all guilty of it. At one level or another, we have all committed the sin for which the prophets condemned the ancient Jews, and that is to call good evil and evil good (Isa. 5:20). Of course, there remains enough of the image of God in us that none of us will bless every sin imaginable. However, all of us have praised some transgressions instead of cursing them. We might frown on sexual promiscuity, but we are happy when a man and a woman live together without being married as a sign of their commitment. We might never use the Lord’s name in vain by cursing, but we think it alright to destroy others with our slanderous words. No matter the specific evil we approve, all of us are guilty of calling sin righteousness and righteousness sin. Our only hope, therefore, is a sovereign Savior.
Sub-biblical views of sin do not confess our deadness in our transgression. If we consider today’s passage carefully, however, we see no better evidence of our deadness in sin than that we bless what the Lord condemns and condemn what the Lord blesses. Clearly, we cannot save ourselves. God must take the initiative and change our hearts, and once converted we must study His Word deeply so that we learn to stop calling good evil and evil good.