“For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Rom. 1:21).- Romans 1:18-32
Colossians 3:16–17 concludes Paul’s basic principles for what it means to put on the new humanity we enjoy in Christ Jesus by telling us to sing “with thankfulness in [our] hearts to God,” in all things to give “thanks to God the Father through him.” Scripture has much to say about this duty to thank the Lord, which is part of what it means to honor Him in everything. For the next two days we will take a break from Colossians to look at the Bible’s teaching on honor and gratitude using R.C. Sproul’s lecture “Honoring God and Giving Thanks” from the Basic Theology I series of messages.
Ford Lewis Battles, a premier twentieth-century expert on the life and work of John Calvin, once noted that the book of Romans played a pivotal role in the reformer’s life. Although there is no record in Calvin’s life of a crisis experience that was due to his reading the book of Romans (as we see in the lives of Augustine, Martin Luther, and John Wesley), this weighty epistle clearly shaped Calvin’s thought at every turn. Particularly important to Calvin was Paul’s exposition of the primal sin of humanity in Romans 1:18–32. Human beings transgress the will of God in many ways, including sexual immorality, idolatry, murder, gossip, and more, but the apostle tells us plainly that the evil that gives root to these and all other forms of human wickedness is mankind’s failure to honor God as God and give Him thanks (v. 21).
It is not too difficult to see how the lack of honor for the Creator leads to other sins. After all, human beings are made to worship, and we cannot help but honor someone or something. If our honor is not directed to the Lord who made all that exists, then it is going to be directed to something else. This makes us guilty of idolatry, as verses 22–23 of today’s passage demonstrate.
The Christian life is all about honoring God directly in our worship, but also indirectly through honoring the authorities by which the Lord orders His world. The commands to respect the name of God and honor our parents are thus particularly important for us to remember if we want to overcome our natural tendency to dishonor the Creator. If we take the Lord’s name in vain or do not respect authorities, we are directly and indirectly dishonoring Him (Ex. 20:7, 12; Rom. 13:1–2).
The flippant references about God and lack of respect for authority that are rampant in our culture reflect the primal sin of not giving honor to the Creator. Unfortunately, even those of us in the church are not entirely guiltless when it comes to these sins. We must therefore seek to use the name of the Lord honorably at all times and show the proper deference to our leaders in both the tone of our speech and our deeds.
Passages for Further Study