Warren Christian Apologetics Center
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Articles -God

Articles concerning the existence of God.

Some Results of Rejecting God

“And even as they refused to have God in their knowledge, God gave them up unto a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, hateful to God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant-breakers, without natural affection, unmerciful; who, knowing the ordinance of God, that they that practice such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but also consent with them that practice them.”  (Romans 1: 28-32, ASV)

The degraded state of men in our world today should cause each of us to consider carefully and prayerfully this passage from Romans. Let us note it statement by statement.

Conclusive evidence for the existence of God was before their eyes, but they chose to reject the conclusion which they should have drawn from that evidence (1:19-21).

Verse 28. “And even as they refused to have God in their knowledge.” They “tested” God and found him not to be the God they wanted. They then turned aside from him. This was the source of the rest of their crimes. In not grasping the knowledge of God which they had gained from nature they prepared themselves for their full departure from God and his ways.

“God gave them up unto a reprobate mind.” Here is an apparent play on words. They tested God and did not approve of him, so God gave them over to a mind which would not stand being tested: i.e., he delivered them into the custody of minds which would lead them all the way into degradation, just as a sheriff delivers a prisoner into the custody of a jailer who leads the prisoner into a dungeon.

“To do those things which are not fitting.” That is, not fitting to their station as men. These things would perhaps be fitting to animals, driven by an animal’s “mind”, but they are not fitting to men, who should be driven by minds of men. Their rejection of having God in their full knowledge has caused them to degenerate from the plane of men to the plane of animals of the field.

Verse 29. “Being filled. . . .” This is the perfect passive participle of the verb “I fill.” This signifies a state of completion, having been filled “to the brim” and even now standing in that same condition. Five vices in the instrumental case follow this participle. 

“With all unrighteousness.” “Unrighteousness” is the translation of adikia. Sanday and Headlam declare this to be a comprehensive term which includes all that follows. It seems to denote injustice to fellowman, or inequity in general. 

“Wickedness” (poneria). This word implies a disposition to do others as much harm as possible. It is more active and energetic than adikia, which means that one would be satisfied withholding from another what is his due. The significance of this term can be seen from the fact that the devil is called ho poneros, “the wicked one.”           

“Covetousness” (pleonexia) denotes the disposition to be discontented at another’s good fortune, with an inordinate desire for money which usually leads one to use improper means of gaining the same. Pleonexia is more active than its synonym, philarguria. “The first . . . seeks to gain what it has not; the second, to retain, and, by accumulating, to multiply that which it already has.”[1] The man who is guilty of “avarice” is greedy for money in order to hoard it.

Maliciousness” (kakia) denotes an inward vicious disposition, the desire to injure others because of ill-will toward them. This word is a synonym of kakoethias, which appears later in this verse. Trench defines kakia (maliciousness) as “the evil habit of mind.”[2] On the other handkakoethias means the tendency to always put an evil construction on events. 

“Full of envy” (mestous phthonou). In the term “full of,” Paul changes from participle to adjective. It means here “to be stuffed full of, to be filled to the brim.” “Envy” means the state of mind which begrudges another his excellence or place. This usually causes one to underestimate another and so be unjust to him.

Murder” (phonou) is the willful and malicious taking of human life.

“Strife” (eridos). Much misunderstanding has come from this translation by the King James scholars. In that version eridos has been translated “debate.” In 1611 (date of the KJV) the word “debate” meant “contention just for the sake of contention, the tendency to take the opposite views in any matter purely for the sake of wrangling.” Today, “debate” means “elucidation for the sake of truth.” This passage does not forbid the striving for truth through the medium of argumentation, but it does condemn a contentious spirit which causes one to ever be seeking strife just for the sake of strife.

“Deceit” (dolou), a bait or a snare. As a disposition of mind, it means the willingness to use every deceitful means of fraud at hand.

“Malignity” (kakoethias). See discussion of its synonym above.

“Whisperers” (psithuristas). Such people slander other men secretly. They whisper one vile tale after another, while pretending great innocence themselves. They tell their malicious tales as if it hurts them to do so, but in reality they delight in the telling thereof. Usually they enjoin others not to mention the matter to anyone else. This is all done in secret. There are few – if any – actions more worthy of contempt.

Verse 30. “Backbiters” (katalalous). The open tattlers of the community. They loudly proclaim the faults of others. There is no disposition on their part to hold back anything. In this they greatly differ from the “whisperer,” who tells his tale only in secret.

“Hateful to God.” (“Haters of God,” margin.) Such people hate God because his ways are not the ways they like to follow. They hate him because he disapproves of their conduct. They scorn both God and his ways.

“Insolent.” They look with contempt upon others and therefore, treat them in such fashion as to bring shame and ridicule upon them. They are overbearing and commit criminal acts upon those whom they hold in contempt.

“Haughty.” They place too high an estimate on themselves. This mistake leads them to be vain and to consider all others their inferiors. In short, they become “stuck up.”

“Boastful.” This vice is the very opposite of modesty. Those afflicted with this attribute describe themselves in flowing terms, over-colored with adjectives which far overstate the case.

“Inventors of evil things.” These persons invent base methods to obtain property, to gratify ambition, and to satisfy lust. They will employ any means deemed necessary to gain the goal they have in view.

“Disobedient to parents.” They are disobedient in the sense of being indifferent to their wants, to their desires. This is indicative of a low degree of human debasement. The good man loves and honors his father and mother.

Verse 31. “Without understanding.” This word indicates dullness in the perception of spiritual or moral values. This is not a natural attribute to do certain things but is brought about by an unwillingness to retain the truths of God in one’s mind.

“Covenant-breakers.” This is a descriptive of one who will not keep his word. This person says that he will not do it, not because he is hindered from doing it, but because he chooses not to do it in spite of having said that he would. Wherever this crime prevails, all confidence in human pledges must necessarily come to an end.

“Without natural affection.” This word signifies a lack of love for near kin. Those who are guilty of it do not love their parents or their children. Many leave their infants to die of exposure or at the mouths of the dogs, and cast their aged parents out to shift for themselves. It amounts to heartlessness for those who should be near and dear to them.

“Unmerciful.” Those who have this quality show no mercy to those who err. Those who are guilty of it have no disposition to forgive. Rather, they tend to remember and hold a grudge, and exact “the last ounce of blood” from one’s fellow man.

Verse 32. “Who [that is, those who did not choose to keep God in their knowledge] knowing the ordinance of God.” Those referred to did not act in ignorance. They knew the will of God in the matter of the practice of the vices named above, but they did not care about God’s judgments. This fact greatly deepens their guilt. This is not to say that they recognized the decree as just, because they were dull in their perception of moral values.

“That they who practice such things [that is, those who have a habit and facility of doing] are worthy of death.” That is, in its ordinary meaning, natural death. God decreed that Adam (and all of his posterity) was worthy of death because of one sin. How much more then are these Gentiles worthy of death who habitually practiced these vile crimes. The fact that they did not die at once did not prove that they were not guilty of crimes worthy of death. Such proved only that they had a respite from the just sentence.

“Not only do the same, but also consent with them that practice such things.” They know God’s decree in the matter, but they go ahead and practice these evil things. They thereby condemn his decree and defy his laws. And even more than that, they are made very happy when they learn of others who are doing them. They send their hearty commendation to such as will join them in their incestuous life. The drunkard is always happy when he can get someone else into the mire of sin with himself, and is always incensed when others refuse to join him. Their effort is to cause evil to be in the life of every man. To be pleasing to God, men must not only abhor sin in themselves, they also must abhor it in others. But rather than condemning sin in either themselves or in others, those of whom Paul here wrote, gave their “hearty approval” to the actions of all who would live in such an evil way.

Thus ends perhaps the saddest commentary upon the lives and characters of men which can be found in all of literature. Let each person take heed to the word of God, lest he “test” that word and turn away from it as being “unapproved.” Such action can only lead one into the depths of sin which Paul has just described.

The knowledge of and fear of God are the beginning point of true wisdom. “Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Psalm 119:11.)

 

[1] R.C. Trench, Synonyms of the New Testament. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.) p.81.

[2] Ibid., p.38.