“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.” – Romans 1:28 (ESV)
Deuteronomy is one of the most quoted Old Testament books by the New Testament writers, and of course there is the familiar verse in Deuteronomy 6 that reads, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (6:5). I think of this verse often and how I fail to live up to this command most days. Last night, I began thinking about this verse while reading through the end of Romans 1.
As the chapter concludes, Paul outlines a major difference between “knowing God’s decrees” and actually carrying them out in a holy manner (1:32). What I noted though was Paul’s account of what happens when we turn the commands in Deuteronomy 6:5 upside-down. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart ? Paul describes how their hearts have become filled with lust (1:24). Jesus amends all your might to “all your mind” in the Gospels, and Paul outlines how their minds have become “debased” in 1:28.
This is important to take note of. Paul is sending out an important warning here. If we do not obey Deuteronomy 6:5, we are headed in the exact opposite direction of the will of God – and on our way to impurity, “dishonorable passions”, and “debased minds”. And Paul uses increasingly stronger language as Romans 1 closes (strife, deceit, heartless, ruthless). These are the end result of not wholeheartedly following Deuteronomy 6:5, which Jesus himself calls the greatest commandment.
D.A. Carson talks about this in his discussion on Romans 1 in his book For The Love of God (Volume 1). Dr. Carson explains how this can become a slippery slope for us if we’re not careful, and how God’s wrath is just in this regard. Here’s Dr. Carson with the last word:
“We must reflect a little further as to what this means. In our shortsightedness we sometimes think God is a little abrupt when in certain passages, not least in the Old Testament, he instantly chastens his people for their sins. But what is the alternative ? Quite simply, it is not instantly chastening them. If chastening were merely a matter of remedial education to morally neutral people, the timing and severity would not matter very much; we would learn. But the Bible insists that this side of the Fall we are by nature and persistent choice rebels against God.”