THE SOURCE OF WICKEDNESS
AND THE WAY OF RESTRICTION
Scripture reading: Rom 1:18-32
Paul presents the matter of condemnation in four aspects: on mankind in general (1:18-32), on the self-righteous in particular (2:1-16), on the religious specifically (2:17-3:8), and on all the world totally (3:9-20). Whether we are good or bad, religious or non-religious, we are under God’s condemnation. First, we will see the source of man’s wickedness. Second, we need to see the way of restriction. There is a way to restrict this wickedness. Since we have been saved from condemnation, we need not give it much attention. However, we need to return to it long enough to learn the source of evil and the way to restrict evil.
I. THE CONDEMNATION ON MANKIND
A. The Source of Wickedness
1. Holding Down the Truth
What is truth? Truth is not mere doctrine or knowledge. Truth is reality; it is solid and substantial. There is reality in this universe, and the prime reality is God Himself. God is real. No one can deny the reality of God or disclaim the fact that He exists, for the existence of God is a reality. However, from the very beginning, mankind did not respect the reality of God, but suppressed it. Why are there so many shameful things in the leading country of the world? Because so many people will not maintain the truth, but instead, wrongfully hold it down.
2. Disapproving of Holding God
in Full Knowledge
Although mankind knew there was God, they tested and tried Him, eventually deciding not to hold Him in their full knowledge. Many professors and professional people do not believe in Christ. If you ask them about God, they will say, “We know there is a God, but we don’t like to believe in Him.” Such people disapprove of holding God in their knowledge. We must hold God in our knowledge, for it is dreadful to refuse to do this.
3. Not Glorifying God and
Not Worshipping Him
Refusing to glorify God, thank God, worship God, and serve God is a major aspect of the source of wickedness. We need to realize that glorifying God, thanking God, worshiping God, and serving God are extremely important. Suppose I have a bad temper, a shameful and ugly disposition. If I try to suppress it, I will never succeed. However, if I thank and praise God continually, I will find the best method of escape from my poor disposition. Whenever you are about to lose your temper, you should say, “I am going to serve God. I don’t have time to lose my temper. God, I thank You that You are my God, that You are my Creator. Without You, I would have no being. I owe my very existence to You. I thank You, worship You, and serve You.” If you do this, you will be freed from your disposition immediately. How much we need to worship God!
4. Exchanging God
Then mankind exchanged God (1:23, 25). Most of the people in America have learned not to worship visible idols, although some people do practice this. Nevertheless, many people in this country have exchanged God for their self-made idols—their future, positions, degrees, and goals. This means that their future, position, degrees, and goals have become their idols. They care for these idols, not for God. Therefore, they also have exchanged God for idols.
If we consider carefully these four aspects of the source of wickedness, we will see that they constitute the origin of every kind of evil and sinfulness.
B. The Result of Giving Up God
1. Being Given Up by God
When you give up God, this forces God to give you up. We must say to God, “Even if I let You go, don’t let me go. Perhaps I will be so foolish as to give You up. Lord, be merciful to me and never give me up.” We need to pray in this way, for it is awful to be given up by God. When a person has been given up by God, he will never do good things. He will not improve but only descend lower and lower.
According to Romans 1, God gives people up to three things. First is uncleanness (1:24). When a person gives up God and forces God to give him up, that person will be defiled, immediately becoming involved with uncleanness. Second, God gives up people to passions of dishonor, to shameful lusts (1:26). Such people may become sodomites, indulging in evil passions and unrestricted affection, dishonoring their bodies with one another. Third, God gives people up to a disapproved mind (1:28). If you disapprove of holding God in your knowledge, God will allow you to have a mind that He disapproves. The mind of sinful men can never be approved by God. People are so foolish and shameful in their sinful ways. Their behavior is absolutely improper. Nevertheless, they continue in sin because God has given them up to a disapproved mind.
2. Having Fornication—
Confusion in Order
The people who have been given up by God will do almost anything to break God’s principle. The result is fornication, confusion in order. Why do people engage in this? Because of uncleanness, passions of dishonor, and their disapproved minds. When people give up God, He gives them up to fornication.
Every kind of wickedness issues out of this fornication (1:29-32). At the end of Romans 1, Paul enumerates the various kinds of evil and describes the wicked persons, such as the whisperers, backbiters, and God-haters. By this we can see that if a person gives up God, God will give him up to lusts, confusion, and every evil imaginable
Thy mighty love, O God, constraineth me, As some strong tide it passessth on its way, Seeking a channel in my self bound soul, Yearning to sweep all barriers away.
Shall I not yield to that constraining power? Shall I not say, O tide of love, flow in? My God, Thy gentleness hath conquered me, Life cannot be as it hath hither been.
Break through my nature, mighty, heavenly love, Clear every avenue of thought and brain, Flood my affections, purify my will, Let nothing but Thine own pure life remain.
Thus wholly mastered and possessed by God, Forth from my life, spontaneous and free, Shall flow a stream of tenderness and grace, Loving because God loved eternally.
Source: Witness Lee, Life Study of Romans, Part 3