Self Worship- Romans 1:18-32

In this passage, Paul tells us of God’s wrath that is now being revealed against those who deny Him. This rejection of God leads to futility of thinking and a darkened heart (verse 21). Because of this, they think of themselves as wise, but are in reality fools, and God gives them over to their foolishness. We will then begin our examination of this passage in verse 23, to see how this foolishness manifests itself in their lives. We find, in verse 23, that they exchange the glory of God for idols. In Paul’s use of the word exchange here, he tells us something very important about people, that it is in every one of us to worship something, and if we do not worship the true God we will worship a substitute. What is important to note here is that the idols man worships are of his own making, man creates the idol he worships, and since He creates the false God, it is obligated to him and exists to serve him. So idolatry, at its core, is actually a form of self worship. It is a distortion of the created order of things, for man is created to worship and serve God, and this is distorted instead into self worship. Those who choose to do so are then “given over” to a list of things which are all the “fruit” of self worship, which ultimately results not in the fulfillment of self, but in its destruction. In verses 24-25, Paul then tells us that human beings are made to worship something and that we worship and serve what gives meaning and purpose to our lives, that what defines us drives us, and if we worship self, we will be driven by the need to magnify self, to exalt ourselves. He then, in verse 26 and following, describes for us the path down which this self worship will lead. It begins, in verses 26-27, with self indulgence, expressed here in regard to sexual activity. Again, self worship results in a distortion of the creation ordinance to be fruitful and multiply, with sex becoming not a means of glorifying God but of indulging self by any means possible, by means which are ultimately destructive. It must be noted that the penalty for this is received “in themselves”, in a distortion and destruction of the true self, of who they are truly created and intended to be. This self indulgence then leads, in verse 28, to self deception, to a “depraved mind”, to deceiving themselves into thinking that right is wrong and wrong is right. They are convinced in their own mind that they are right and no one (including God) can tell them they are wrong, and they increasingly do what should not be done, drifting farther and farther from their intended purpose, farther from their true meaning and worth their true selves. This self deception then leads, in verse 29, to self distortion, to a distortion of the creation ordinance to have dominion over the created order, a perversion of the true source of meaning and purpose in their lives. They become “filled with” wickedness, with the term filled with here representing control. You are controlled by what you are filled with, they believe they are in control, when in reality they are under control, rushing further and further from their true selves. This control them manifests itself, in verse 30-31, in the relations between self and others. Again, the creation ordinance to assist others in becoming their true selves is twisted and distorted into a need to dominate and destroy the selves of others in order to magnify their own selves. We then, in verse 32, come to the end of the process, where self distortion leads to self destruction, in their continuing to do things which result in the further destruction of their true selves and the further magnification of their false selves, in a further increases in self worship. In what is perhaps the ultimate irony, the search to magnify the self really leads to its ultimate destruction, and it is the emptying of the self (Philippians 2:5-10) which leads to its true fulfillment. So what we ultimately learn here is that human beings are created to worship and serve someone, and our choice ultimately comes down to worship of God or worship of self. Those who choose to worship God choose a path which ultimately leads to self fulfillment. Those who choose to worship self choose a path which ultimately leads to self destruction. This is a choice which is given to every human being, and Paul presents all of this in the hope and desire that all would choose to worship God and not worship self, that all would choose the path which leads to self fulfillment and reject the path which leads to self destruction.

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