The Mutual Delight of Sinners

Herman Hoeksema was the first editor of the Standard Bearer. *Preaching this sermon in the late 1930's, Hoeksema refers to a fire in Lansing, MI that captured the attention of the public. It is worthy of note that Hoeksema would press such an event into the service of the Word. -Ed.

Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them. 

Romans 1:32


According to the general impression and opinion, the fire of the hotel in Lansing a few days ago was an awful tragedy." Undoubtedly it was. We can only imagine a little of the horror of men and women trapped in a fiery furnace, to be burned alive, or to find death in the icy waters of the Grand River. We cannot imagine the horror of it. We can also perhaps understand that the horror changed to righteous indignation when it was told the next day that the fire was probably caused by the rowdiness of a drunken party. 

Let us try to carry that awful picture just a little further. Suppose that that fire was actually due to the rowdiness of drunken men. Suppose that the majority of these drunken men had escaped the fire. Suppose that sometime later these same men, now sober, at another party are still enjoying that night. They talk about the party they had, laugh about the things that took place at that party, and still rejoice in the drunken revelry of that party, even though it was the cause of the awful death of many. 

You say, that would be the depth, of degradation. Yet this is the picture that the text gives of natural man. It is just exactly this that characterizes the natural man according to my text. 

From this point of view, verse 32 is the climax of Romans 1. Paul does not hesitate to describe men who have been given over by the wrath of God to a reprobate mind as rejoicing to see men on their way to hell. This is the text. They know; the text says, that they who do such things are worthy of death. They know that this is the righteous judgment of God. They know, therefore, that they who do such things are on their way to hell. Although they know that they who do such things are on their way to hell, they not only do these things, but they also delight in them who do them. Our text, therefore, pictures to us the mutual delight of sinners.

A Wicked Delight

This mutual delight of sinners is, first of all, a wicked delight. The apostle expresses this especially in the last part of the text. You understand that when the apostle says that they not only do these things, ,the things, namely, which he has, enumerated in the preceding verses, but also have a pleasure in them who do them, he characterizes their wickedness as being the depth of degradation. 

That the text is very real, we can know from everyday life. The sinner seeks the sinner. Sinners delight in one another's corruption. This is evident not only from the text and in Paul's day. It is equally true in our modern world. All along the line you will find the reality of the text. You can start in the underworld. They not only have their robberies, their holdups, and their killings, but they also have their parties at which they tell about their robberies and the crimes they have committed, laugh about them, and rejoice in their wicked deeds. Anyone who does not rejoice with them has no place among them. This is true all along the line. Men come to the shop on Monday morning and tell all about how they spent Sunday. They tell how they spent the pay they had received on Saturday in drunken revelry and Girt and laugh about the things they have committed. They delight in each other's dirt. 

It is evident in the business world. Businessmen come together and tell about how they cheated and about the crooked deals they pulled off, and they rejoice in it. 

We find these two things: men do such things, and they also have pleasure in them who do them. When they come together, they agree together and laugh about each other's corruption.

What does this mean? Why is that delight which men have in each other's sin a worse sign of men's corruption than the deed itself? 

The answer is evident. Sin may be committed because one looks for the fruit of that sin. Sin looks good to him, not because of the sin itself but because of what it brings him. A man may tell a lie because it seems to him that in telling that lie he will be benefited. A man may be a drunkard, not because of that sin as such but because he enjoys himself in the carnal lust of drunkenness. 

But the apostle says that this is not all. Even if they do not do these things themselves, they have a delight in them who do them. Even if there is no personal gain in it, they have a delight in these things. They delight in such corruption. They will even try to make you commit these things. The drunkard likes to see you drunk. He will try to make you drunk. Men delight in one another's corruption and sin. 

What does this mean? It means, in the first place, that the sinner loves sin for sin's sake. He has pleasure in corruption. He has pleasure in sin even if there is no personal gain in. it. It is only in this light that we can understand the rest of the text. The sinner loves sin; he has pleasure in corruption. This is a very wicked delight. 

In the second place, it means that the sinner who commits sin wants the darkness to prevail in general. If you ask, "Why does the sinner delight in them who commit sin?" the answer is that the sinner's great desire is that sin abound everywhere and in everyone. 

Let us ask the opposite question: "Why does the sinner hate the righteous?" The sinner hates the righteous. This is why they hated and finally killed Jesus. The sinner hates the righteous, and he will in principle kill him every time. Why does the sinner hate the righteous? Because the righteous man, in his testimony and work, is a manifestation of the truth. That manifestation of the truth, as it is in the righteous, condemns that sinner. He hates that righteous man because the sinner wants to hold the truth under in unrighteousness, in order to sin peacefully. The sinner wants to have company. He tries to kill the testimony of the righteous. This is natural man. Sinners have pleasure in one another's sin, although they know that they who do such things are worthy of death. 

Let me use an illustration. There is a steep, slippery road that ends in a precipice. Men are sliding down that slippery road. The text means to say that, although they know that they are sliding down, they want to enjoy their slide. Although they know that at the end is the precipice, they want others to enjoy that slide with them, and they take them along.

A Cruel Delight

This is why the text calls our attention, in the second place, to a cruel delight. We must notice that this is an everyday delight. The wicked take each other along to hell. This is true of the father with regard to his son, whom he does not want to walk in the way of righteousness. This is true of the mother with regard to her daughter. This is true of the whole world. Knowing the judgment of God that they which commit such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also have pleasure in them who do them. 

Notice that the apostle says that they know that that way of sin ends in death. The question has been asked, what death does the apostle mean? Does he mean physical death? Then the apostle would mean to say: they know that they which commit this corruption will die the physical death. But this would not make sense. Besides, when Scripture speaks of death without further designation it always means the final state of death; it means eternal desolation. Death is hell. Therefore, we may say that men who are on that slippery road know that the end is hell.

How do they know this? In the first place, because God has revealed it from the beginning. That death is the wages of sin, God has revealed from paradise. This revelation was not entirely lost, so that men outside of the church do not know that the wages of sin are death. This revelation was preserved. It has been declared throughout history that the wages of sin are death. I know, men hold this truth under in unrighteousness. But in his deepest heart he knows that the wages of sin are death. 

In the second place, this is what general revelation clearly reveals. The apostle shows in this chapter how that by the power of the wrath of! God man is drawn to everlasting desolation. This is simply the direction of sin. Everybody can see that the direction of natural debauchery is physical death. When a man lives a life of spiritual debauchery, the result is more spiritual debauchery, and this is death. 

Finally, there is the testimony of the Spirit of God in the heart establishing, this connection. The testimony of the Spirit in the heart of the wicked establishes this testimony: the end of sin is death. Knowing that they who do such things are worthy of death, they not only do them but have a delight in them who do them. The tender mercies of the wicked are cruel. They not only like to slide down themselves, but they want to take others along. They rejoice when others go along with them to hell. This is my text. This is awful. This is the movement of sin in the heart of all of us. This is why sin is so terrible. We may try to cover up that sin as soon as it touches us personally. But we are by nature so corrupt that we not only commit these sins, but we also delight in them who do them.

An Inexcusable Delight

This is inexcusable. For the apostle does not say merely that they do these things and that they know that the end is death. No, the apostle says two things. They know that it is the judgment of God. They know that they are worthy of it. They know that that judgment is righteous. "Knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death....? Therefore, they are without excuse. They cannot say, and they do not say: this is our lot; we cannot help it. No, what they say in their own consciousness is this: God judges me to be worthy of hell, and this judgment is correct. 

How does he know it? How does man know the righteous judgment of God? God has revealed it. They know it, because they know that God is. All men know that. Atheism is a philosophy. All men know that God is. All know that God is eternal in power and Godhead. All men know that this God must be glorified and thanked. This is the inevitable "Thou shalt" written in the heart of man. Knowing this truth of God, not wanting this God, and refusing to glorify and to thank Him, man knows that he runs into eternal destruction. What shall we do? What shall we do, if this is the condition of the sinner? 

What shall we do, if man would rather go to hell than abandon sin? What shall we do? Shall we scare him into abandoning his way? Shall we preach hell and damnation to him? That will not help. The world tries that. When corruption gets a little too bad, they say we must tell men what will be the consequence of certain sins. But the text says that men have a delight in the sins of others. These measures are doomed to fail. 

Sometimes they say it in the church. They say, let us preach hell and damnation. It is alright to tell men about it; but if the purpose is to turn man from the way of sin, it is at the outset doomed to fail. Knowing that they who commit sin are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but have a delight in them that do them. 

What shall we do? There is only one answer. The apostle gives that in verses 16, 17: "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ." This gospel preaches the righteousness of God which is by faith in Christ Jesus. This gospel is the vehicle of the righteousness that descends from heaven. This righteousness can be had in the only possible way in which righteousness can be had, namely, by faith. 

Therefore the apostle calls this gospel "the power of God." 

The end of it is: "the righteous shall live by faith." He puts away all his own righteousness, all that is of self. He puts all his trust in the righteousness of God, which is by faith in Christ Jesus.