18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 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. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
28 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. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
In Romans 1 the essential nature of idolatry is explained to be,
1.) Exchanging the glory of the incorruptible God for an image (23)
2.) Exchanging the truth of God for a lie (25a)
3.) Worshiping and serving the creature rather than the Creator (25b)
As Idolatry results in becoming what you worship (Psalm 115, 135) the fitting punishment (lex talionis) for dysfunction in the relationship between the Creator and creature is dysfunction in the relationship between the creature and the creature and so malfunction in worshiping God results in malfunction in other relationships. This malfunction is then put on display in sodomy, lesbianism, disobedience to parents, and all kind of kinds of other relational grotesqueries (Romans 1:24-32).
In vs. 21 the failure is “not honoring God,” and the punishment that fits the crime is their dishonoring of their bodies via perversion (vs. 24). Those who will not honor God will not honor either themselves or others. Note also the close relationship between a rejection of God and the embrace of sexual perversion. Wrong thinking about God leads to wrong thinking (and acting) about sexuality.
In vs. 21 it is said that they became futile in their thinking because they did not honor God and as a consequence (judgment) in vs. 28 God gives them over to a debased mind. They will not think right about God and as punishment from God they are debased in their thinking about others.
All in all a rupture in the vertical relationship makes for a rupture in horizontal relationships.
It is interesting that the inspired Apostle draws the tightest relationship between men who will not love God and those same men who are dominated by their sexual lusts. It is as if somehow the image of God is wrapped up tightly with our sexuality so that if men will not bow to God they will attack God by striking out at Him by seeking to extricate the Imago Dei in attacking their sexuality. This suggests that perversion is primarily theological before it is anthropological. This tight relationship between men who will not love God and the practice of sexual perversion is seen also in the OT. Take for example Numbers 25 where the Israelites abandon God and end up going all orgiastic with the women of Moab.
Romans 1 also teaches that man’s problem is not an intellectual problem but a moral problem. Man does not bow to God because he does not have enough facts. Man does not bow to God because in having all the facts he needs he insists, despites those facts, to engod himself at God’s expense.
A slightly different nuance is to see how orthodoxy and orthopraxy walk together in Romans 1. Wrong thinking about God is always reflected by unseemly orthopraxy. Reversed proper orthodoxy, always yields God honoring orthopraxy. If someone doesn’t practice orthopraxy then their orthodoxy is askew. A expert in theology who does not love his neighbor is no expert in theology.
Romans 1, consistent with the rest of Scripture, teaches us that Idolatry is the fountainhead of all sin. Sinful acts, when understood, can always be traced to a prioritizing of some Idol over the God of the Bible.