24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:
1901 ASV Translation:
24 Wherefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts unto uncleanness, that their bodies should be dishonored among themselves:
There are two textual variations in verse 24. The Textus Receptus has "also" after "wherefore" and the Nestle/Aland 26 does not; and the Textus Receptus uses the reflexive pronoun "themselves" where the Nestle/Aland 26 simply uses the pronoun "them".
I. The Problem.
A. God delivered them over to uncleanness.
1. The "wherefore" indicates that God responded to their overt idolatry in exchanging the incorruptible glory for a corruptible "glory".
2. The "deliverance over" occurred in the region of the "heart", particularly in the region of the "lusts" of it...i.e. the powerful desires that dominate the heart's values.
a. In a sense, God delivered them over "to" the lusts of their hearts, but Paul uses "in" rather than the simple dative.
b. The problem with the "lusts of the heart" is that they are absolutely dominant...there is no escape from the values of the heart because there are no other values to provide any motivation for "escape". In a sense, one might seek deliverance from the "beliefs of the mind" because one senses that his way of thinking is not producting what he wants; but if there is no other "want" (as in the heart), there is no motivation for seeking deliverance.
a) This may explain why salvation begins at the "faith" level rather than the "love" level...men "love" themselves and, if their situation becomes sufficiently intolerable to them, they might be motivated to seek "salvation" simply because their "self-love" demands it.
b) Man seems to never seek salvation for the glory of God; rather, he seeks it because of his danger. Thus, self-love, as dangerous as it is, actually works to his advantage at least in this one area.
3. The "uncleanness" is a death-producing reality that has all of the horror of decay and degeneration. The general concept of "uncleanness" is any and all that is a manifestation of "an unclean spirit" (demon) in that the body was designed to make the invisible spirit manifest. If the inner spirit has been twisted from the glory of God, the body will automatically reveal that by its actions.
a. Paul makes "uncleanness" a rather major issue, both here and in other texts.
b. Interestingly, demons are called "unclean spirits".
c. The question that comes up is this: just what is the significance of uncleanness?
1) In the Old Testament "uncleanness" was any condition that could sponsor the spread of disease.
2) In the Old Testament "uncleanness" was also "cultic" -- i.e. it had to do with conditions which denied a person certain privileges in both the community and worship.
3) By these means, "uncleanness" was elevated from a physical realm reality of dangerous pollution to a figure of speech applied to the spiritual realm that implied a significant condition of corruption of relationship with God.
d. Then the question arises: what is the significance of being "delivered up" to uncleanness?
1) There is a sense of "abandonment" involved. God no longer makes provision for protection.
a) The use of the term in the New Testament has more than just "abandonment" involved; there is an active "subjection of one to the power of someone/something" [John was "delivered up to prison"; a judge "delivers" the guilty up to the officer of the prison; a brother will "deliver" his brother to death...etc.].
b) It is the term used by Paul in 1 Corinthians 5 where he "delivered one over" to Satan for physical destruction.
2) There seems to be an echo here of "My Spirit shall not always strive with man...".
3) There is also the biblical reality that God has not "rescinded" His deliverance of the physical body up to the bondage to corruption that was part of the consequences of the fall and makes the future redemption of the body something we look forward to.
a) That God delivered them up to uncleanness has two realities: one physical; the other spiritual.
b) That God "saves" those whom He has turned over to this uncleanness also has two parts: the first part has to do with the "cleansing of the soul" and the other has to do with the "redemption of the body".
B. Their "bodies" are now "dishonored".
1. This means that the "body", which was designed for the "honor" of expressing both the blessing of God upon the physical and the creature's thankful response for the Creator's blessing, is now expressing an awful distortion in the active processes of the corruptible "glory" of the creature.
a. The physical realm "reveals" the displeasure and judgment of God by means of the body.
b. The physical realm "reveals" the displeasure and rebellion of man.
c. The body has been moved from its "honored" position as "servant" to the "dishonorable" position of "master". This is so contrary to the thought of man that it sounds like a massive contradiction; but in the Kingdom-thought of "servanthood", it stands as the glorious Truth.
2. This means that the "body" is now despised by God and all who share His values regarding it.
a. This "despising" is somewhat lifted by the reality that the physical body has become the "temple" of God, but it remains an "earthen vessel" that continues to be unredeemed. This "elevation" to the status of "temple" keeps us from treating the body like an unclean piece of trash (which could lead to the desecration of the body as a insignificant thing--things like "being joined to an harlot", etc.).
b. This "despising" is supposed to result in the deliberate subjugation of the body to the demands of the will of God against its "lusts" (Paul said he "buffeted his body to keep it in subjection" -- 1 Corinthians 9:27). It is to be kept in the designed position of slave; not the exalted position of "lord".