1:25: They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served the creation rather than the Creator . . . for this reason God handed them over . . .
1:28: As they did not see fit to take cognizance of God, God handed them over . . .
These verses show that the prior, non-moral but religious or theological, fall consisted in a rejection of the knowledge of God, an idolatrous turning from the Creator to the creature. This is what the main passage, 1:18-23, says; and this (in Paul’s view) is the fall, not the consequence of it. Man was surrounded by the handiwork of God, his infinitely beneficent Creator, who established him as lord over all his surroundings. But having tasted dominion he sought to be free even of God, and to extend his lordship upwards as well as outwards. He thus refused to glorify God as his Lord, and to give thanks to Him as the giver of all good things. This inordinate pride, the perversion of a lordship that God himself had created for man, was accompanied by the loss of man’s knowledge of God, and idolatry; that is, man’s subordination to the creatures he should have ruled.
—C. K. Barrett, From First Adam to Last: A Study in Pauline Theology, 19
The glory of creation and the glory of God are as different as the love poem and the love, the painting and the landscape, the ring and the marriage. It would be a great folly and a great tragedy if man loved his wedding band more than he loved his bride. But that is what Romans 1:19-23 says has happened. Human beings have fallen in love with the echo of God’s excellency in creation and lost the ability to hear the incomparable original shout of love.
—John Piper, The Pleasures of God, 85
Sin has not destroyed man’s religious capacities; it has simply turned them in an apostate direction away from the “Living God,” so that he now prefers the worship of finite deities of his own invention. [Romans 1:25]
—Geoffrey B. Wilson, Romans: A Digest of Reformed Comment, 25
It was Adam who above all perverted his knowledge of God and sought to escape the status of creature, and believed a lie and became a fool and thus set the pattern (Adam-man) for a mankind which worshiped the idol rather than the Creator. [Romans 1:21-25]
—James D.G. Dunn. Romans 1-8 (Word Biblical Commentary Vol. 38), 53
Adam was not content to be the Son of man he was; the tempter’s promise, You shall be as God, moved him to attempt self-aggrandizement by disobedience. [Genesis 3:5; Romans 1:21]
—C. K. Barrett, From First Adam to Last: A Study in Pauline Theology, 16
Paul’s account of man’s wickedness [Romans 1] has been deliberately stated in terms of the Biblical narrative of Adam’s fall.
—M. D. Hooker, “Adam in Romans I,” New Testament Studies 6 (1960), 301
The sequence of events outlined in Romans 1 recalls the story of Adam in Genesis 1–3. God revealed to Adam what can be known of Him (Rom 1:19), and that from the creation onward, God’s attributes were clearly discernible to him in the things that had been made and that he was thus without excuse (v. 20). Though Adam knew God, he failed to honor Him as God, and grew vain in his thinking and allowed his heart to be darkened (v. 20). Adam’s fall was the result of his desire to be God, to attain the knowledge of good and evil (Gen 3:5), so that, claiming to be wise, he in fact became a fool (Rom 1:21).
—M. D. Hooker, “Adam in Romans I,” New Testament Studies 6 (1960), 300
You’re never more like Satan than when you’re trying to be God. [Isaiah 14:14; Genesis 3:5; Romans 1:21,25]
Romans 1:18-23 captures the essential nature of idolatry as consisting precisely in the confusion of the creature with the Creator.
—Larry W. Hurtado, At the Origins of Christian Worship, 110
Romans 1:18-32 is a foundational passage for understanding all of Paul’s theology. . . . [It] centres on the nature of worship. Human beings are clearly portrayed as creatures who must worship, and whose sin lies in the fact that they do not choose to worship as they should. . . . The real goal and scope of redemption [is] the restoration of true worship and the destruction of the false.
—Noel Due, Created for Worship, 29
The error described in Romans 1:18ff., is not the neglect of worship, but the exchange of worship. Men and women are inveterate worshipers. Worship belongs to their essential structure. The expression of human sin is that the worship for which they were created is exchanged for idolatrous worship. They sin, not by not worshiping, but by worshiping wrongly.
—Noel Due, Created for Worship: From Genesis to Revelation to You, 27
The theological counterpoint to the opening chapter of Romans, with its emphasis on illicit worship and the moral degradation brought about by idolatry, is Romans 12. Whereas in Romans 1 we are given a picture of illegitimate worship that leads to the moral breakdown of every kind of social relationship, in Romans 12 we are given a picture of the integrating effects of true worship, in which the whole of the new covenant community delivered from the power of the idols and brought out from under the wrath of God which such idolatry merits – expresses its worship through love. p. 185
—Noel Due, Created For Worship: From Genesis to Revelation to You, 185
May all who use these hymns experience, at all times, the blessed effects of complying with the Apostle Paul’s injunction (Eph. 5:18, 19), “Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to yourselves in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” Yea, may they anticipate, while here below, though in a humble and imperfect strain, the song of the blessed above, who, being redeemed out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation, and having washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb, are standing before the throne, and singing in perfect harmony with the many angels about it (Rev. 5:9-12 and 7:9-14), “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing, for ever and ever. Amen!”
—Moravian Hymnal (1789)
We may sign agreement to a doctrinal statement, but the doctrines we fully believe are the ones we sing. Church history has proven the power of music to shape our understanding of God.
—Jerry Foote, “Nearer Than We Know,” Moody Magazine January/February 1997, 16
Years ago near Christmas I was listening to ATC when a woman commentator shared the challenge of being Jewish in America at Christmas. I wish I could remember her name. What she said was cordial and insightful. As she wrapped it up she conceded wistfully that Christmas had quite simply inspired the greatest music in the history of the world. That admission contained a sigh and a signal.
Even Richard Dawkins (who succeeded Bertrand Russell and Madalyn Murray O’Hair as the world’s most famous atheist) has admitted to being a “cultural Christian.” The foundation for so startling a confession.? He found the singing of English Christmas carols to be irresistible. There is a truth and power in music whose source is not yet fully comprehended. Music is the registry of an unarticulated native reality. The power of music offered in praise suggests that though God’s truth can be denied, the beauty which radiates from that truth cannot go unadmired. Music which praises God’s majesty reflects God’s majesty. The music of Christmas, like the message of Christmas, resonates with something deeper than the mere recognition of excellence.
—Ronnie Collier Stevens, blogpost 12/13/2008
The use of music as an expression of emotion linked to theological truth is common in all churches. In the evangelical traditions where personal religious experience is emphasized, emotional expression is one of music’s most important meanings; it is probably that function which folks refer to when they identify “music that speaks to the heart.” But this is not a new experience for churchgoers. St. Augustine mentioned it in the fifth century.
“How greatly did I weep in Thy hymns and canticles, deeply moved by the voice of Thy sweet-speaking Church! The voices flowed into mine ears, and the truth was poured forth into my heart, whence the agitation of my piety overflowed, and my tears ran over, and blessed was I therein.”
The emotional power of music is perhaps best realized in the life of the church when proper music is well coupled to appropriate text. (Note that Augustine joins emotion with truth!) In this union, the music dramatizes, underlines, “breathes life” into the words, resulting in more meaning than the words themselves could express.
—Donald Hustad, Jubilate II: Church Music in Worship and Renewal
Depending on music to aid, induce, or enhance worship is idolatry dressed up on psycho-aesthetic finery. It confuses the power of music with the presence of God.
—Harold M. Best, “Authentic Worship & Faithful Music Making,” ACDA National Convention, Chicago, Illinois, February 27, 1999
Wisdom will be needed to encourage a congregation to be united over the music it uses. One result of the power of music is that people become deeply wedded to their personal preferences and find it difficult to recognize that the style of music is almost always a matter of no intrinsic theological importance. Training the congregation to recognize the difference between what is theological and what is cultural, and between where the Bible speaks clearly and where it does not, is an important part of training the congregation to be balanced in their biblical understanding. It has been wisely pointed out that many tussles over words and books are basically disputes about power in the life of a local church. Selfishness loves to dress itself in cultural clothes. Musical taste seems a lot more godly than self-interest, but all too often that is all a preference for one style of music over another amounts to!
—Mark Ashton, “Following in Cranmer’s Footsteps,” in Worship by the Book, 91
Some worshipers mistakenly assume that music serves the same inconsequential purpose in church as in the shopping mall. Since they regard it all as elevator music for the soul, they impose no standards on it. For them, neither music nor silence has much spiritual significance. They believe worship to be the service of the Word in the form of words. So long as the words of a lyric are acceptably pious, the choice of the music to which words are set is dismissed as nothing more than a matter of personal preference.
This grossly misapprehends the power of music.
—Daniel Frankforter, Stones for Bread, 122-123
The idea of limiting and censoring music is at least as old as the 4th century BC, when Plato wrote that in the Republic he envisioned, the flute and other instruments “capable of modulation into all the modes” would be banned. We don’t think of Plato as a totalitarian, but he shared the totalitarian rulers’ fear of the power of music to unleash the human spirit…It was no accident that Mao and Plato both wanted to ban certain kinds of music…
Glazov informs us, “The Taliban illegalized music completely in Afghanistan, and Ayatollah Khomeini banned most music from Iranian radio and television.” Lenin did not ban music, but he wouldn’t listen to lt. “It makes you want to say stupid, nice things and stroke the heads of people who could create such beauty while living in this vile hell.”…
—William J. Federer, Change to Chains: The 6,000 Year Quest for Control, 77