Though I cannot recall the source, I remember the following illustration and its applicability to the topic at hand. Jewelers display diamonds and pearls on black cloth to create great contrast and thereby enhance the brightness of the jewels. In the first three chapters of Romans, Paul lays out the black cloth. In chapters four and five, he places the jewels on it. The black cloth is sin. The jewels are the salvation offered in Christ. Consider what Paul wrote about the sins of the Gentile world in Romans 1:18-32, and note how modern these ancient sins are.
The wrath of God is being revealed (present tense participle) on all who suppress the truth and consequently live ungodly and unrighteous lives (1:18). The truth that is being suppressed relates to the nature of God, which led to a failure to properly honor him (1:20-21). Though God had revealed himself to Gentiles (1:19), they had largely rejected him.
Even though God’s eternal power and divine nature can be perceived through the created world (1:20; Psa. 19:1-4; Acts 14:17), the Gentiles refused that evidence and chose the path of worshiping the creature instead of the creator (1:21-23). When you suppress the truth of who God is, you set yourself up to believe any lie, no matter how foolish (1:22).
Therefore, God gave them what they wanted (1:24-25). They wanted to live without restraint, to be led around by their own base lusts, and to ignore God and his moral law. So God let them, and his wrath (1:18) came in the form of the consequences of those choices. One example of their degeneration was homosexuality (1:26-27). Paul uses strong words of condemnation for this immoral way of life: degrading passions, unnatural, and indecent acts. In quick fashion, Paul lists several additional sins that characterized those Gentiles who chose idolatry over God (1:28-32).
Take special note of the connection between what a person thinks about God and how that person acts (cf. Prov. 4:23; 23:7). It was because the Gentiles “exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (Rom. 1:25) that God gave them over to the grossest immorality.
It is easy to see the same thing in our day. The more people reject the truth about God, the more they embrace depravity (Rom. 1:28). Look at the list of sins in this section and note how many of them are not just excused, but praised and promoted in our culture. It is neither Paul’s point nor mine to imply that every person who rejects God will commit all of these immoral offenses. But the farther one separates from God, the more likely he will be to embrace godless, unholy behavior (1:32).
“That which has been is that which will be, and that which has been done is that which will be done. So there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecc. 1:9).
Brown Trail church of Christ