Question:

I was reading a part of the Bible and it was Roman 1:19-23. I was just wondering: does this relate to masturbation being a sin?

Answer:

"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man--and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things" (Romans 1:18-23).

Paul is discussing in this passage the reason the God justly holds the Gentiles accountable to sin. The Gentiles might not have had the word of God readily available to them, but they had sufficient information to know that God existed and to even understand many spiritual concepts.

Instead, they purposely turned their backs on the obvious and began making up their own gods, which cannot be gods at all. Because man knows little beyond his own existence, those imaginary gods took on the form of the animals or man himself. Yet, it doesn't take a genius to realize that neither animals nor men could have created this world, let alone this universe.

If you continue on, you see the steps of decay being listed out. When men make up their own religion, one of the first things they give themselves permission is to have sex without restraint.

"Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen" (Romans 1:24-25).

What is being mentioned here is are sexual sins, particularly sins between men and women. If you want to argue that masturbation is covered by this passage, you would have to show that God categorizes it as such or show how it violates a law of God. See "Is Masturbation Unacceptable?" for a detailed discussion of the whether all acts of masturbation are necessarily evil. But such distracts from the flow of Paul's argument.

Paul is pointing out that the Gentiles in their idol worship, turned to unrestrained sex and made it a part of their idolatry. We know that many of the ancient fertility gods were "worshiped" with acts of sex. But as Paul points out, these are actually people worshiping their bestial nature, gratifying their own desires, and not true worship of a true God.

But after time, these things become everyday occurrences. People are rarely content to let things be, so they look for new, exciting and shocking things.

"For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due" (Romans 1:26-27).

Homosexuality followed. Corrupted forms of sex between people of the same sex, which Paul points are are by its very nature acts of shame as well as a vehicle for the spread of disease.

Eventually even this became common places and society fell apart.

"And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them" (Romans 1:28-32).

If you think about it, the western world is currently following the same series of steps. It isn't surprising; history does tend to repeat itself.