Romans 1:24-28

24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.

What does it mean that God gave them up?
Is this a figure of speech or does this indicate a specific action/decision that Paul characterized as God giving them up?

4 Answers 4


The phrase "God gave them up" (παρέδωκεν αὐτοὺς ὁ Θεὸς) only occurs in Rom 1:24, 26, 28. In all cases, the phrase is preceded by the explanation, which always involves a perverse but determined human choice to deliberately ignore God.

  • V21-24 - For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking and darkened in their foolish hearts. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images of mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the desires of their hearts to impurity for the dishonoring of their bodies with one another.

  • V25, 26 - They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is forever worthy of praise! Amen. Therefore, God gave them over to dishonorable passions.

  • V28 - Furthermore, since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, He gave them up to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.

Thus, God will not contravene human will and ultimately allows people to serve Him or to rebel as they choose. Note that such rebellious people are a direct contrast to what Paul describes later in the same book of Romans:

Rom 12:2 - And do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of the mind, for you to prove what is the good and well-pleasing and perfect will of God.

That is, the Christian life involves the important step of consecration - a life-long commitment to serve and follow Jesus which the Bible describes in various ways such as:

  • “reflecting the Lord’s glory and being transformed into His likeness” (2 Cor 3:18),
  • being “transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom 12:2),
  • “follow after righteousness” (1 Tim 6:11),
  • walking in the “newness of life” (Rom 6:4),
  • “perfecting holiness” (2 Cor 7:1),
  • “partaking in the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4),
  • “growing up into Christ” (Eph 4:15),
  • “pressing toward the mark” (Phil 3:12-15),
  • “being built up in Christ” (Col 2:7),
  • “becoming complete in all the will of God” (Col 4:12),
  • “fighting the good fight of faith” (1 Tim 6:12),
  • “growing in grace” (2 Peter 3:18),
  • “produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matt 3:8),
  • “walk by the spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Gal 5:16), etc.
  • “enduring to the end” (Matt 24:13, Mark 13:13, Heb 10:36),
  • “remaining steadfast” (James 1:12, 1 Cor 15:58),
  • “fighting the good fight” (2 Tim 4:7),
  • “being strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might” (Eph 6:10), etc

However, if one refuses to acknowledge God and Jesus' free offer of salvation and His transforming power, then God will give the person over to their desires not to so transformed.

  • This was a good intro but it wasn’t the answer to my question: what does it mean that God gave them up? You make a good point that each instance was preceded by human choice to ignore God … but what does it mean that God gave them up? Did God stop doing something or start doing something as a result of their actions? Looks like your answer may be it’s figurative in the sense that God doesn’t do something but rather the natural consequence of a life without God and absolute truth takes its course Commented Oct 21, 2022 at 23:11
  • @Maximus1987 - God makes the choice to allow people to make their choice - God "gives them up" to their choices. God allows freedom of choice. This is Biblical Hebrew idiom. In more modern terms we might say: "if that is what they are determined to do, I will give up on them and give them over to the consequences of their own choices."
    – Dottard
    Commented Oct 21, 2022 at 23:27
  • Does that mean God stopped doing something? If a human gives up on someone - like on a drug addict - it means they stop doing something ie their actions change compared to before they gave up. Did God change some actions He was taking in attempt to correct them? Commented Oct 22, 2022 at 1:02
  • @Maximus1987 - that is a deep question. God does not give up - we give up on God, but God does respect our decisions. No one will be forced into heaven. Just how God handles a person who is deliberately rebellious and refuses to accept the gift of grace is a matter for divine wisdom. In the instances of Rom 1, we are told plainly, God gave them over to the results of their decisions. We are also told in the Matt 25, that some receive the comment from God, "depart from me for a never knew you." See also Rev 22:11. This involves another question about the limits of probation.
    – Dottard
    Commented Oct 22, 2022 at 1:18

The phrase "God gave them over" is very much akin to the phrase from the apostle Paul "delivered him over to Satan."

These verses outline a recipe for the disintegration of a society, any society. Paul outlines four stages of decline to which God deliberately and with purpose gave them over.

  1. The first stage is the decline of knowledge and wisdom – 18-23.

This represents a change of status in the epistemology of man. Paul says that man has no excuse for such an epistemological shift. There are only two epistemologies from which man can obtain knowledge – there is the natural world of human experience and there is revelation. Revelation had been abandoned for the epistemology of human experience. Now, man regards human experience as the revealer of truth.

  1. The second stage is the decline into idolatry, 18-25.

God has been replaced by his own creation. Glory has been transferred by man away from God to created things.

  1. The third stage is the decline into sexual depravity, 26-28. This is ALL sexual depravity, not just homosexuality.

  2. The fourth and final stage is the decline into absolute moral collapse. 29-32.

Here, sexual perversion, along with the perversion of every other human imagination, reaches its zenith. This is yet a deeper stage of depravity that goes beyond just the practice of homosexuality. Society has now descended into such things as bestiality and all manner of wickedness. No behavior was forbidden. Man recognized no limits of experimentation, and as a result, God gave them over to the most extreme perversions of every kind. This is the mind of man that is completely cut off from revealed constraints. No redeeming qualities remain. Man has descended as far as he can go into a depraved state and God has now totally abandoned them to the fate of their choices.

These verses are dealing with the four stages of societal decline.

  1. After they had exchanged God for creatures of the earth, “God gave them over....”

If we so strongly desire the lowest elements of human behavior, the Lord will allow us to seek it. He will not interfere. The Lord’s policy is that if you want this kind of life or this kind of society, then you can have it. As a result, people began to experiment with all manner of human experiences that God in his wisdom has forbidden.

  1. Their insistence upon seeking depraved behavior caused God to give them over yet again, this time to sexual impurity.

“God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them.”

This is a particular type of impurity that directly violates the intended function and purpose of the human body. It is an impurity of the body in which the body is dishonored.

This is not necessarily speaking of homosexuality, but it certainly would not exclude it. This first stage of sexual decline in a society is to remove sexual behavior from its proper place. This changes the context of sexual behavior which is limited by God to the marriage covenant.

Man has expanded the acceptable range of sexual behavior to the advancement of sexual experimentation. Marriage is no longer recognized as a boundary for sexual activity. Socially acceptable sexual conduct has now been expanded to include adultery, fornication, illicit sex, sodomy, and prostitution. This behavior is degrading because it abandons the divinely appointed context for sex. This is not the proper place or purpose of sexuality. What the Lord calls sexual impurity and degradation is now regarded by man as freedom and enlightenment.

  1. In verse 25, we see yet another exchange – “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie.”

a. Abandonment of the word of God is unidirectional. It only travels in one direction – away from God. When people walk away from revealed truths, then all hope is gone. After that, there is an upheaval of the moral standard. What was true has now become a lie, and what was a lie has now become truth. No one knows the difference any more.

Without a revealed standard to show man the difference between right and wrong, societies will always choose the wrong. Man will always descend into depravity – ALWAYS! In fact, what we learn here and from other places in scripture such as Genesis six, and what history confirms for us, is that even in the presence of revealed truth, man will still eventually descend into depravity; and historically, it does not usually take long.

b. They “worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator.”

At this point, man himself becomes his own god. Man has now come to believe his own lies. He has resigned himself to a world devoid of absolutes, devoid of revealed truth, devoid of the limiting will of God. As Fredric Nietzsche once wrote, "God is dead and all we have left are values." These values to which Nietzsche refers are those given by man, for man, and that are held by the consensus of man.

Because of this type of thinking, God once again “gave them over” to their “degrading, dishonorable, shameful passions.” The standard here for what is considered degrading, dishonorable, or shameful is not the opinion of man, it is the assessment of God. God says these things are degrading, dishonorable, and shameful.

When man casts aside his conscience regarding these things, then his sense of shame will be cast aside along with it. If we do not register any sense of shame regarding what scripture says about our sins, then these verses become meaningless to us.

The sense of shame is a human barometer that was given to us by the Lord to tell us how far we have moved away from the will of God. Shame is more than just embarrassment; it is a sense of guilt before God. We have forgotten how to blush.

Just how deeply has our conscience been seared? Consider the music you listen to, the movies you take in, or what passes for humor to you on television. God has created us with a capacity for shame, and he has created us in this way to prevent us from engaging in such soul-destroying behaviors as these mentioned in out text.

In order to placate our own conscience, we have determined to separate ourselves from any standard that condemns our behavior. The removal of the word of God as a standard for regulating human behavior is a necessary step that allows us to rationalize and justify our choices. This is how one removes the sense of guilt.

In the final analysis, This was a deliberate act on the part of the Almighty to abandon them to their most perverse desires to their own destruction.


One can see what it means " "God giving over to" by looking at examples of the history of His people, Israel.

Just look at His people who were going after the Gentile gods time after time. God would let them go and worship other gods and in turn He would judge them through various means. Their suffering then made them cry out again to Him and in their need. He would rescue them because of His mercy. This was a pattern over and over.

God giving man over is basically letting man follow after other gods, of his own making and suffering the consequences of what that does to him. It darkness one's heart and continue one life to destruction in various forms.

Who exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, Romans 1:25

It is interesting how His wrath is manifested. It is not by forcing anyone to worship Him, or killing him but giving one over to worship a lie and suffering the consequences of what that does to a person.

Of course this scenario shows that we all have been given over to sin.

What then? Are we better than they? No, in no way. For we previously warned both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin. As it is written, “There is no one righteous; no, not one. There is no one who understands. There is no one who seeks after God. Romans 3:9-11

Ahh, but then there is God's righteousness being revealed through the faith of Jesus.

the righteousness of God is through the faith of Jesus Christ to all, and upon all those believing, -- for there is no difference, Romans 3:22

It reminds me of the parable of the prodigal son. The Father lets his rebellious son go, even gives him money to go live recklessly and sees in the end where it takes him. The son finds himself in need of his most basic need to stay alive, food. His suffering has brought him to his senses, is humbled, changes his direction to head back to his Father's house, where He is waiting with compassion and open arms. He was lost and was dead.


Impossible, ontologically impossible for God to enact evil and make purposefully somebody to sin, impossible!

Is it possible for a wind to stop blowing because of its bewilderment for seeing Helen of Troy combing her hair? Impossible, for wind, ontologically cannot behave in this way, for it has 0 interest in a feminine beauty. Now multiply this impossibility to impossibly great number, take this number into a square of impossibly great amount, and you will get a glimpse of the impossibility of that God can be an active cause of sin.

Thus, the phrases you give are figurative and simply imply that God does not interfere when a man chooses to abuse his freedom, because He infinitely respects our created freedoms. Thus, when He “gives up men in their lusts”, it means that He allows them to use freely their ability to choose, and this freedom entails a real possibility of abuse, in which God does not interfere. It is God’s will that men be free from all constraints save their own conscience, and it is His will that the freedom of man is such that he can even abuse it, but it is not His will that man should abuse his freedom of choice. There is an infinite difference between a) God’s will and b) God’s letting.

Poor Jan Kalvin did not understand this and fell into a calumny of blaming God for the wrongdoings of men.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.